London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A number of teenagers in the Gaza Strip have begun to get together every evening to perform wild skateboarding stunts along the narrow corniche, drawing crowds of amused—and bemused—locals.
Just before sunset, dozens of young Gazans ride their skateboards along the city’s corniche, which extends for two kilometers. Although this activity had not been seen in the Gaza Strip until recently, it is becoming increasingly popular among the local youth.
Nineteen-year-old Mo’men Al-Bana, who has always been drawn to skateboarding, loves his new hobby. He said: “I love watching people skateboard. I always wanted to learn how to do this and I finally bought my first skateboard from one of the local markets.”
“I feel free when I am skateboarding,” he added.
Bana, who lives in the Zeitoun district north of Gaza, is proud to have mastered this new activity. He said: “It was hard for me to learn from watching videos posted on YouTube.”
Bana and his friends skate on makeshift ramps constructed from empty cardboard boxes obtained from street vendors.
Bahaa Hasouna, another skateboarder, explained that “we use our pocket money to buy our gear from local markets, whose merchandise comes from Israel. They sell second-hand gear that is original and enduring.”
Hasouna added: “Skateboarding has become a phenomenon in Gaza and people love it and encourage it. However, it is difficult to obtain the right gear. Despite this, we will not give up; we will find a solution.”
Iman, a student of electronic engineering at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, loves to watch the young skateboarders. She said: “I intend to post a video of the young skateboarders on YouTube and Facebook in order to help them find a solution…. We will find sponsors for these youth to help them participate in one of the international [skateboard] contests.”
Ahmad Hamdouna, 19, is fortunate to have received his skateboard as a birthday present from his father, he says. “I took up this sport when I was young and I learnt how to do this from the Internet.”
“My friends and I can skateboard freely in the streets, but the police sometimes prevent us because [they say] we block the traffic. The problem is that there are not any skate parks [in Gaza].”
Rami Zaqout, who came with his two children to watch the Gazan skateboarders, revealed that he lets the young skaters use his motorcycle as an obstacle to jump over.