Eight women sit on the roof of a small house in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City, in an area where poverty is prevalent. They are supervised by 47-year-old Eitidal Filfil, who founded the project “Habbat Al-Loulou” or “grains of pearls”, to make maftool.
Water is poured slowly over balls of semolina and ghee to make tiny balls the size of lentils. This is maftool, known as couscous in North Africa; a very popular dish in the Levant, North Africa and some Mediterranean Basin countries.
Eitidal says that the project targets widows and gives them job opportunities. The women don’t earn much, she explains, but it helps them provide for themselves and their children.
“Most [of the women] have five to eight children who need an allowance, food, drink, education and healthcare. All of this weighs heavily on us.”
Eitidal says the initiative produces about 300 kilogrammes of maftool a month, which are sold at $1.60 a kilo. The women’s wages range between $8-$15 a day.
Production can be doubled, she explains, but only if sells increase and people rely on her goods. Habbat Al-Loulou would also need to purchase a maftool-making machine, which would save on the time and manpower used to forming the dough balls to make the dish.
Wish rising unemployment in the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinians are turning to traditional crafts to earn a living and provide for their families.