From Mansaf to Maqluba: How three sisters from Gaza turned iftar prep into a profitable business during Ramadan

Gaza food Ramadan
5 min read
15 April, 2022

Like the rest of the women in the holy month of Ramadan, Suhad, Amal, and Rana Abu Juma'a, three sisters from Gaza City, are busying themselves by preparing various types of food.

"Kibbeh, Fattah, Kabsa, Mansaf, Maqluba, Maftoul and Musakhan are among the most famous Palestinian dishes that the three sisters prepare for customers"

They are doing so not for their families, but rather to market and sell it to their customers so that they can earn some money.

Kibbeh, Fattah, Kabsa, Mansaf, Maqluba, Maftoul and Musakhan are among the most famous Palestinian dishes that the three sisters prepare for customers, in addition to dozens of varieties of Eastern and Western sweets.

Live Story

"We started our home project several months ago, but the number of orders requested by customers increased significantly during the blessed Ramadan, especially since the majority of customers are working women or young people who prefer to eat their food in public places such as the sea and parks," Suhad, 35, told The New Arab.

While cooking chicken in a large pot to make a Palestinian Musakhan for one of her clients, Suhad added, "My sisters and I are university graduates. For months, I worked in the medical field, but I lost my job a while ago, while my sisters were unable to work in their field of study."

Suhad explains that her love and passion for cooking brought her to think of this project, especially after her friends and family complimented her food, so she started taking her first steps by cooking and taking pictures of her dishes and posting them on Facebook and Instagram accounts.

"At this moment, I felt that I was heading in the right direction towards completing my project. Certainly, I agreed and started cooking for my clients," she says.

Suhad did not expect her dishes to be admired by many of her followers. However, she received many offers of the possibility of preparing food in exchange for money. 

Usually, the three sisters record all the orders at night and then distribute roles among them. Suhad innovates in making sweets, especially cakes. Amal makes pastries, while Rana cooks all the dishes.

The three sisters are keen, when any customer calls, to know their wishes regarding any dish, if they prefer it hot, salty or savoury, or if they have any requests in the way the food is prepared, in order to impress them.

Once they have finished preparing their dishes, they hand them over to the delivery service that sends them to customers on time.

"We work as a beehive to accomplish our work as quickly as possible to impress the customers," Amal told The New Arab.

"Despite the high unemployment in the Gaza Strip, we are able to find alternatives to ensure a better life instead of relying on aid from others."

She adds, "In the beginning, we found it very difficult to finance, as we depended only on ourselves, not to mention that the equipment needed to cook food is not enough to meet all orders, such as a gas oven, for example, and there is equipment that we cannot buy such as a mixer due to its high prices, but we have overcome all these obstacles and decided to survive in our project."

The three sisters call their project Ward Kitchen, which is very popular with customers, as social networking sites have helped them greatly in promoting their food, while their prices make the food appealing to a wide range of clients.

The three sisters expressed their hope to develop their project to grow and be known by as many people as possible. One of them says, "Our biggest dream is to open our own small shop in which we can cook and sell all kinds of food."

Since 2007, the residents of the Gaza Strip have been living a tragic life due to the Israeli siege imposed on them, which has caused the economic, political, and social conditions to deteriorate.

"Israel wants to break our people in the Gaza Strip, by restricting them, but we (the women) are able to change the circumstances in our favour"

This led to a rise in the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip to 47%, where the unemployment rate for females reached 66%, compared to 39% for males, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Nahid Al-Nimr, a woman from Gaza City, was one of the first to invent work at home and market her products to make money, in order to help her husband, who lost his job about 15 years ago.

Nahid, who has seven children, says to The New Arab that she started her project in the month of Ramadan,  by making Qatayef, so she prepared and sold them to her customers. But a year later, she opened a small tent in the middle of the Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood to sell Qatayef to customers.

Live Story

"At first I wanted to help my husband, who had to lay off his workers in the sweets factory, but then I felt like the owner of the project and that Qatayef could not be sold if I was not here," she added.

The prices of Qatayef range from $2 to $3 per kilo, and are in great demand among the residents of the Gaza Strip, while the woman keeps her smile throughout her work in her tent.

She says, "Israel wants to break our people in the Gaza Strip, by restricting them, but we (the women) are able to change the circumstances in our favour by inventing projects at the lowest costs and investing our talents, whether they are in cooking, fashion design or drawing in order to open projects through which we can make money."

Sally Ibrahim is The New Arab's correspondent from Gaza