Sardine kofta in Palestine: A love story | Gaza


As we walk out to join her at the docks, Madelyn Culab looks over at us, one hand resting on her budding belly and the other on her waist. She keeps an eye on her husband, Khadr Bakr, who is out at sea, but not too far out, not as far as he would like – but hopefully far enough to bring back a small haul of fish on this breezy Friday morning.

On the sand nearby, two little girls are playing with an older man. They are Madelyn’s daughters, four-year-old Sandy and two-year-old Safinaz, the lights of their grandfather Jamal’s eyes. She is expecting a third child soon.

There are only a few other fishers by their boats on the shore. The rest are nearby at the local fish market, selling their diminished hauls and catching up with each other on the news.

A view of Madelyn through fishing nets as she sorts them
Madelyn is the only female fisher in Gaza, in addition to being the only certified rescue swimmer [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

I had started the day early, buying two coffees with Abdelhakim, a photojournalist I have worked with for years, from a kiosk by the sea, followed by a long ramble through the fish market and what seemed like a dizzying array of boats, nets, traps, tools, and more, all neatly organised following a system that mystified the two of us.

There are no other women out on the docks, Madelyn is the only female fisher in Gaza, in addition to being the only certified rescue swimmer. Now 27 years old, she’s been going out fishing with her father since she was six years old, and was heading out by herself when she was 12.

“I would go out to sea in the rowboat and my father would wait for me on the beach. Then he got sick and couldn’t work any more, so I started fishing alone to support my family.”

Madelyn’s strength of character is apparent, in evidence by the respectful greetings and smiles she gets from the fishers on the shore. Her father-in-law, laughing and playing with the girls on a beached boat, also looks over adoringly at his daughter-in-law.



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