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dabke, rap, breakdancing and life: Gaza Ramadan day 27


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It gets a bit ridiculous with Palestinians insisting on giving away merchandise, belongings, wall-hangings…anything to guests in gestures of friendship and hospitality [a note on this: don't ever light-heartedly compliment something that isn't bolted down in your hosts' home or they will take it down/off and give it to you].

Abu Mahmoud, the taxi driver with the signature flashing red heart mounted in his taxi [which he also tried to dis-mount and give to me after seeing my fascination with it], insists on not taking a fare each time, instead trying to pin us down for a meal at his home: “I’ll show my wife how you cook,” he says, meaning “I’ll show you how my wife cooks.”

Today I walked into a shop to buy a undershirt. The owner didn’t seem to remember having met me (and gushed his welcomes at me) some months before. Forgetting, he pounced as though I were a new Gaza arrival that he wanted to extend hospitality towards.

“Please, can we give you a gift?” he said as I chose the top I’d wanted to buy.

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“Don’t be ridiculous,” I tried to convey, thanking him. “I came here to buy from you, not take.”

But in most situations like this, the insistent host wins out, as did this shop owner today.

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Later, the Gallery is packed with all ages, men and women, kids, for a combination concert of rap, break-dancing and traditional Palestinian songs.

There are the usual long-winded speeches (has to be said; Palestinians are very ceremonial and love to orate a good speech). The sentiment is on, tho, speaking of Palestinian resilience and solidarity amongst Palestinians in Nablus, Ramallah, Khalil, Gaza…

It’s 2 hours after the start time, and they’re still going through speeches, a lottery draw (one prize: phone card credit)… And despite the formalities, the delay in getting to the music, the crowd is loving it, so ready for a party, so ready to cheer, clap, laugh…

Some traditional singing, joined by a chorus of men in the audience when they are moved to chime in, followed by hoots and cheers at their participation.

The rappers come out –from Palestinian Rapperz and Black Unit –and give a brief talk to the audience on what is rap. For many in the audience, they have never heard rap before. The rappers explain: we rap about our country, we talk about our culture…They start, their movements are like rappers anywhere, but their message is on Palestine.

Camps Breakerz comes out next, carrying a number of folded up pieces of cardboard which they spread on the open grass. The music starts and they begin a choreographed dance and breakdance routine. While its the first time many of the Palestinians in the audience have seen breakdancing, it’s also mine. I’m impressed by their athleticism.

Water Band comes on, a trio of oud, guitar, and drum players. They play some Marcel Khalife and solo oud and then, with a singer joining them, break out in more modern pop Arabic.

It’s a gentle intro to the audience of breakdancing and rap, but it’s a start.

With just a few days left of Ramadan, many are anticipating the celebration of ‘Eid, even without anything to celebrate.

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