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Gaza’s Latest Craze: The Water Park

August 6, 2010
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Mohammed Al-Araj, the economics minister in the first government formed after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, is believed to be one of the water park’s directors. Other partners are believed to be members of Palestinian political factions as well as “independent businessmen,” the British newspaper The Independent reported.

Sitting on 14 dunams [3.5 acres] of land, The Crazy Water Park features swimming pools, ponds with pedal boats, three waterslides, a 100-meter-long canal, a restaurant, a cafe, and a secluded area shaded by a tent where adults can sit on carpets and listen to music. It took builders six months to construct the park with materials collected from the rubble of buildings destroyed by the war, along with materials brought from Europe and smuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt.

More than 2,000 families visited The Crazy Water Park in Gaza during the first few days after its opening ceremony, according to the park’s records. Admission is 10 Israeli shekels (US $2.60), plus another 5 shekels for access to the slides and another 20 shekels for access to the pool. Sales tax, which goes to the Hamas government, is also added to the ticket prices.

The park employs 106 workers in addition to more than 80 vendors who provide catering services and goods. Employees who spoke to The Media Line were overjoyed at being selected for a job in such a unique place. The average salary of Crazy Park employees is about US $250 to US $300 a month, the minimum wage in Gaza. Meanwhile, more than 80% of Gaza’s population is living in poverty and depends on social welfare and supplies from UNRWA and other Non-Governmental Organizations.

Ayman Barawi, financial manager of The Crazy Water Park, says that the news media tends to exaggerate, but that the park has been a huge investment and costs might reach as much as a couple million dollars, but that he doesn’t have a precise number.

Barawi adds that he resents the ban that Gaza’s de facto government—run by Hamas—had put in place on women smoking hookahs in public places, but that he was happy to hear that they had lifted the ban. Now women can legally puff the hookah in the park’s café and restaurant.

“You can consider this park as a resort or an escape where Gazans can come to forget or remove the daily stress and take a fresh breath of air. One of the most attracting aspects of this Park is that it’s very near to the beach,” Ayman says. Safa’ Al Wouheidi, head of The Crazy Water Park’s public relations department, denies rumors of serious or fatal accidents at the park. She confirms that the park is fully equipped with medical crews, lifeguards and security personnel and that any problem is dealt with immediately and professionally, and solved.

Al Wouheidi admits minor accidents do occur at similar attractions, saying The Crazy Water Park is not an exception, but she insists that any accidents were not a result of anything in the park, but were due to parents’ negligence. Panda Investment Company, the company that owns The Crazy Water Park, also denies any accidents at the park. Sameer Sa’d, chairman of the Board of Directors of Panda, says that any serious accidents would have made headlines, as it is the only park of its kind in Gaza and therefore is still making the news.

Sa’d also denies claims made by The Independent that Hamas is the disguised owner of the water park. Sa’d says Panda Investment Company is lead by a group of independent business people who come from different backgrounds and respect all Palestinian factions, adding at the same time that the park was built and licensed according to the rules and regulations of Gaza’s de facto government. Sa’d reports that the number of visitors reaches 2,000 each day and 3,000 visitors or more on holidays and summer vacation days. Sa’d considers the park a way for Gazans to have fun and practice their right to a normal life in the besieged strip.

Sa’d personally guarantees a good time to everyone who attends the park and invites all Gazans, Palestinians, Arabs and internationals to come visit The Crazy Water Park with their families, to see for themselves. Sa’d adds that a German woman came all the way from Europe just to visit The Crazy Water Park with her family and couldn’t believe that such a place existed in Gaza. Sa’d assures that the prices are fair, reasonable and accessible to everyone.

The Gazan street illustrated diverse views about The Crazy Water Park. While some people know about the park and go there regularly, others say it’s very expensive and they cannot afford it. Some have never even heard of a place called The Crazy Water Park, while others hate it, saying that Gaza is in need of many things other than water parks, such as hospitals and employment opportunities.

Amnah Abu So’ood, 42, does not believe having a water park in Gaza will make a change to her own life. “Does that park have the magical ability to erase the bad memories of my kids’ minds? Does it replace their dad? Does it provide them with a house and food? Will it provide me with money to put my kids in school?” she asks, before calmly walking away.

On the other hand, Salma Al Shawa, a student of the American School in Gaza, was very excited about the park. “Finally we get to taste a bit of childhood just like the children of the world. I am so happy about it and I go there a lot.” Hate this park or love it, you can’t deny that it’s made history as the first and only one of its kind in Gaza and as a result has made a buzz that is resonating around the world.

Posted on August 6, 2010

Source: (By Omar Ghraieb, The Media Line, August 5, 2010)

Photo Credit: Photo by The Media Line

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