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Abu Maher

Among the antique shops in the heart of the Old City, in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, you will find a two meters square shop, containing a treasure of antique sewing machines.

There you will meet an eighty-year-old man sitting with his peers at the door of his shop. His name is Zakariya Al-Jayar “Abu Maher”. He has been working in the maintenance of sewing machines for more than fifty-five years, tirelessly.

Al-Jayar says: “I opened my first shop in Jabalia camp in 1955, where work and income were abundant due to the large number of women’s sewing factories at the time.”

He added, “I do not forget the five pounds that I earned from my first job repairing a sewing machine, at that time I did not have the necessary equipment for that, so I went and borrowed it from a neighbor. I make sure to open the shop on a daily basis from sunrise to sunset, despite the lack of work in it.” Stressing that he is sticking to his profession, which does not cover his day’s sustenance at the present time.

He points out that he keeps an old sewing machine dating back to the Ottoman era, as it is considered the oldest in the place, and he does not want to waste it in any way, pointing out that he is still using old equipment to repair machines to this day.

Al-Jayar concludes: “With the import of Chinese clothes, local manufacturing decreased, and thus the use of sewing machines decreased,” pointing out that more than 2,000 clothing factories were closed in the Gaza Strip, which led to a significant increase in unemployment.


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