Gazans get first taste of coffee delivery by bike
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Gazans get first taste of coffee delivery by bike

Shaaban Hamuda, a business management graduate, launches a two-wheeled hot drink service, precariously delivering beverages in Rafah

A delivery employee carries a tray of steaming cups of coffee in front of Shaaban Hamuda's  small stand near Rafah market, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 13, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A delivery employee carries a tray of steaming cups of coffee in front of Shaaban Hamuda's small stand near Rafah market, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 13, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — With a practiced hand, a courier balances a tray of steaming cups and with the other grips his bicycle handlebars as he weaves between cars in the crowded Gaza Strip.

Shaaban Hamuda’s modest coffee on wheels business is giving the coastal Palestinian territory its first taste of a delivery service inspired by the likes of Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

There are no vividly colored bulky backpacks as is customary in Europe and North America, just a tray and a few cups of hot Arabic coffee, covered with foil to avoid splashing and cooling.

Hamuda, 31, a business management graduate, launched his two-wheeled hot drink service in May, from his small stand near Rafah market, in the southern Gaza Strip.

A stove, a few saucepans and dozens of cardboard cups: everything to prepare cafe au lait, Arabic coffee and mint tea.

Customers only need to contact him on WhatsApp for one of his employees to prepare the order.

Then a delivery man gets on his cycle and rushes the steaming drink to the customer.

“People like what is new. I have received encouragement from many people,” said Hamuda, who charges only for the beverage. Delivery is free.

“We use cycles to attract the attention of the public and it has proven to be effective,” he told AFP.

Shaaban Hamuda, 31,(R) a Palestinian business management graduate, gives instructions to one of his delivery employees carrying a tray of steaming cups of coffee, in front of his small stand near Rafah market, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 13, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

It was through watching YouTube that the father of two came across the trend of home-delivery meals by bicycle, a service that has grown popular worldwide.

The young entrepreneur reports satisfactory revenues, but said sales have fallen since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Gaza Strip, with an estimated population of two million, has been relatively spared by the pandemic, with just over 75 cases, one of whom has died.

But as elsewhere the crisis has depressed economic activity in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment rates are both above 50 percent.

The coastal enclave has been under an Israeli-enforced blockade since 2007, the year the Islamist terror movement Hamas took power. Israel says the blockade, which is supported by Egypt, is needed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons to use against it. Goods are shipped via Israel, which reviews them for weapons and military content, then trucks the cargo to Gaza.

The smell of coffee

Ali Abu Jayab, one of the four deliverymen, could not afford university studies because he comes from a poor family.

“There is no hope for young people in the Gaza Strip,” said the 25-year-old, who is delighted to have found work with Hamuda.

“Cycling is all about freedom of movement, it’s sport, it’s fun and free. It’s a good idea and people love it,” he said.

A delivery employee carries a tray of steaming cups of coffee from Shaaban Hamuda’s small stand near Rafah market, in the southern Gaza Strip, as he weaves between a car and a donkey-pulled cart on July 13, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Sameh Juda, who owns a perfume shop, was seduced by the smell of Hamuda’s coffee.

“I started by ordering a small weekly coffee and now it’s one a day,” he said with a grin.

“Shaaban’s idea is good and innovative, and in addition it is very profitable since the bikes do not require fuel,” he said, adding that he appreciates the speed of delivery and ordering via the messaging app.

Despite crippling poverty in Gaza, “young people have innovative ideas that can enable them to find sources of income,” said Juda.

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