KFC knows no boundaries as Palestinians smuggle food via tunnels

The French fries arrive soggy,the chicken having long since lost its crunch.

Written by New York Times | Gaza City | Published: May 18, 2013 4:04 am

Fares Akram

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 co-ordinating it all from a small shop here called Yamama.

“It’s our right to enjoy the taste that other people all over the world enjoy,” said the entrepreneur,Khalil Efrangi,31,who started Yamama a few years ago with a fleet of motorbikes ferrying food from Gaza restaurants,the first such delivery service here.

There are no name-brand fast-food franchises on this 140-square-mile 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 per cent.

Travelling through the Erez crossing into Israel requires a permit and is generally allowed only for medical patients,businessmen and employees of international organizations.

Palestinians refer to Gaza as being under siege or blockade by Israel,and isolation from the world is among the most common complaints of people here. That can create an intense longing for what those outside Gaza see as mundane,or ordinary.

Formerly called Kentucky Fried Chicken,a KFC franchise opened in El Arish,just over Gaza’s southern border,in 2011,and in the West Bank city of Ramallah last year. That,along with ubiquitous television advertisements for KFC and other fast-food favorites,has given Gazans a hankering for Colonel Sanders’s secret recipe.

So after Efrangi brought some KFC 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,” Efrangi said.

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

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