Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Fast-Food Underground: Gaza Finds a Way to Get Its KFC

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Fast-Food Underground: Gaza Finds a Way to Get Its KFC

Article excerpt

For fast-food delivery, it is anything but fast: It took more than four hours for the meals to arrive on a recent afternoon from the franchise where they were cooked in El Arish, Egypt.

The French fries arrive soggy, the chicken having long since lost its crunch. A 12-piece bucket goes for about $27 here -- more than twice the $11.50 it costs just across the border in Egypt.

And for fast-food delivery, it is anything but fast: It took more than four hours for the KFC meals to arrive here on a recent afternoon from the franchise where they were cooked in El Arish, Egypt, a journey that involved two taxis, an international border, a smuggling tunnel and a young entrepreneur coordinating it all on a side street here from a small shop called Yamana, or Pigeon in Arabic.

"It's our right to enjoy that taste the other people all over the world enjoy," said the entrepreneur, Khalil Efrangi, 31, who started Yamana a few years ago with a fleet of motorbikes ferrying food from Gaza restaurants, the first such delivery service here. But after Mr. Efrangi brought some chicken back from El Arish for friends last month, he was flooded with requests. A new business was born.

"I accepted this challenge to prove that Gazans can be resilient despite the restrictions," Mr. Efrangi said.

There are no name-brand fast-food franchises in this tiny coastal strip of 1.7 million Palestinians, where the entry and exit of goods and people remain restricted and the unemployment rate is about 32 percent. Passage into Egypt through the Rafah Crossing is limited to about 800 people a day, with men 16 to 40 years old requiring special clearance. Traveling through the Erez Crossing into Israel requires a permit and is generally allowed only for medical patients, business executives and employees of international organizations.

But since KFC franchises opened in El Arish in 2011 and on the West Bank in 2012, Gaza residents have developed a hankering for the chicken from Colonel Sanders, fed by ubiquitous television advertisements for KFC, also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, and other fast-food brands.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Efrangi has coordinated four deliveries totaling about 100 meals, making about $6 per meal in profit. He promotes the service on Yamana's Facebook page, and whenever there is a critical mass of orders -- usually 30 -- he starts a complicated process of telephone calls, wire transfers and coordination with the Hamas government that controls the Gaza Strip in order to get the chicken from there to here.

The other day, after Mr. Efrangi called in 15 orders and wired the payment to the restaurant in El Arish, an Egyptian taxi driver picked up the food. On this side of the border, meanwhile, Ramzi al- Nabih, a Palestinian cabdriver, arrived at the checkpoint in Rafah, where the guards recognized him as "the Kentucky guy. …

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