London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fast-food takes on an entirely different meaning in the Gaza Strip, where some Gazans are willing to wait up to four hours for a delivery of KFC.
Unlike the West Bank, the 25-mile long coastal strip does not have any trademark fast-food outlets. But that has not stopped Khalil Efrangi, a 31-year-old Palestinian business owner, from providing the much craved and internationally renowned brand of fried chicken.
The lengthy process, in which KFC meals travel roughly 50 miles, begins in Gaza, where orders are taken. According to Yamama’s Facebook page—which issues regular reminders of upcoming deliveries and contact details for placing orders—there are usually two or three deliveries a week, each consisting of dozens of individual orders. After various phone calls and wire transfers, the chicken is prepared in neighboring Egypt at the KFC franchise store in El-Arish, nearly 30 miles from the Rafah border crossing.
Once the orders are made, they are taken by taxi to one of the many tunnels used for smuggling a plethora of items into the Gaza Strip, particularly as the territory has been subject to a restrictive blockade—imposed by Israel and Egypt—since June 2007. At this point, the food is taken underground into the tunnels, which are controlled and overseen by Hamas. Roughly 7,000 people are estimated to work in the network of over 1,000 tunnels, which are responsible for bringing an estimated 30% of Gaza’s imports.
The work is dangerous as the tunnels “could collapse any time and kill you,” as one eighteen-year-old smuggler told BBC News last year. Gazan human rights groups estimate that 233 individuals have died working in tunnels since 2007. Furthermore, Israeli air strikes have targeted the tunnels, which are also used to smuggle weapons and personnel. Egyptian authorities have likewise sought to prevent illegal activities, such as in February of this year, when they flooded the tunnels in response to the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai province.
While the food is being transported through the prearranged tunnel, a Palestinian taxi driver waits at the entrance, ready to transport the meals to Yamama’s store in Gaza city. Once there, the buckets of chicken and other food items are divided into the separate orders and delivered by their fleet of motorbikes.
They offer anything that is available at the store in El-Arish by ordering online, according to the delivery service’s Facebook page, although more specific items are subject to discussion where payment is concerned. “It’s our right to enjoy that taste the other people all over the world enjoy,” Mr. Efrangi told the New York Times.
Despite involving four separate payments, Mr. Erfangi’s latest business venture appears profitable. A 21-piece family box costs EGP 124.32 or USD 17.80 at Egyptian KFC stores. However after the extensive transportation process, it is sold by Yamama for ILS 135 or USD 37.00. The cost of moving the goods through the tunnels is USD 16.50, according to a New York Times reporter who witnessed the process, who added that, after other payments, Yamama makes roughly USD 6 profit per delivery.