Sandwiches and a safe space: A Gaza restaurant run by women, for women

The Sabaia VIP restaurant is staffed only by women and is aimed at a clientele made up of women of all ages. PHOTO: REUTERS

GAZA - A Palestinian woman has realised her dream of becoming a chef in the male-dominated Gaza Strip, thanks to a new eatery where she heads an all-female staff serving an all-female clientele.

Opened last month and offering light meals such as chicken sandwiches and pizza, Sabaia VIP has been doing brisk business in a conservative and congested enclave where some women complain of the lack of private and safe leisure venues.

The chef, Ms Amena Al-Hayek, trained at a hotel restaurant where she worked for free. Although there were openings there for new chefs, she was never considered.

"The administration rejected (me). They said they wanted a male chef, not a female," Ms Al-Hayek told Reuters.

Sabaia means "lasses" in Arabic, a playful choice of words for a clientele made up of women of all ages - and no men.

"The idea stemmed from our need to have something private, where we can enjoy our independence and our privacy, a place only for women," said the owner, Ms Reham Hamouda.

She employs eight women on staff and others who prepare food at their homes.

That provides much-needed income in Gaza, where unemployment hovers around 50 per cent.

"We proved to the world that we were able to open a restaurant and succeed without a man's supervision," said Ms Al-Hayek. REUTERS

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