The newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant

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

Eatery caters to clientele in need of a sense of independence, doing well in a conservative and congested enclave; chef says was overlooked in other commercial kitchens which prefer men in kitchen

Reuters |
Published: 09.12.22, 15:52
A Palestinian woman has realized her dream of becoming a chef in the male-dominated Gaza Strip thanks to a new eatery where she heads an all-female staff looking after an all-female clientele.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • Opened last month and offering light meals like chicken sandwiches and pizza, "Sabaia VIP" has been doing brisk business in a conservative and congested enclave where some women complain of lacking private and safe leisure venues.
    3 View gallery
    The newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    The newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    The newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The chef, 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," Hayek says.
    Sabaia means "Lasses" in Arabic, a playful choice of words for a clientele made up of women of all ages - and no men.
    3 View gallery
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "The idea stemmed from our need to have something private, where we can enjoy our independence and our privacy, a place only for women," says the owner, Reham Hamouda.
    Hamouda employs eight women on staff and others who prepare food from their homes. That provides much-needed income in Gaza, where unemployment hovers around 50%.
    3 View gallery
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    chef Amena Al-Hayek cooks a meal at the newly-opened women-only Sabaia restaurant
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "We proved to the world that we were able to open a restaurant and succeed without a man's supervision," says Hayek.
    Talkbacks for this article 0