Palestinian Man Drives Vintage Cars He Manufactured in Blockaded Gaza
Muneer Al-Shandi, a Palestinian resident of Gaza City, drives a luxurious vintage car through the streets of his neighborhood in eastern Gaza. His sight-catching vehicle attracts pedestrians, particularly children, as he navigates through the impoverished and besieged enclave.
Al-Shandi is known for proudly cruising in a vintage 1929 Mercedes with its convertible top, and a self-made 1946 Armstrong car. This is despite the ban on car parts importation in Gaza.
Al-Shandi shared, 'I am filled with joy as I drive these cars. Everyone on the street is astonished and asks to take pictures.'
Since 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, restricting the movement of people and goods. The blockade has led to severe economic and humanitarian hardships for the more than two million inhabitants, and Israel justifies its restrictions by citing security concerns.
Al-Shandi personally crafted the Mercedes Benz (Jazal) 1929, starting from scratch, using locally available parts and some imported ones brought in by friends from the United States via the UAE.
He explained, 'The restoration period, quality, and appearance would have been better if more resources were available.'
He continued, 'I acquired some spare parts for the car through friends in the UAE, who imported them from the U.S. However, they arrived eight months later.'
The 42-year-old began working on the Mercedes in 2015, and the process took a whole year due to the scarcity of spare parts.
Al-Shandi revealed that he started working in the field of car repair and maintenance at the age of 15. He further gained considerable expertise while working for a large company in the UAE that specializes in classic and vintage cars.
He enthusiastically stated, 'I developed a tremendous passion for vintage vehicles and decided to get one, particularly a 1929 Mercedes Jazal.'
Al-Shandi returned to Gaza in 2009 for family reasons and established his own workshop. Part of his earnings goes into funding the production of his dream cars.
He proudly shows his beige-colored Mercedes adorned with a red leather-covered dashboard and a wooden frame connecting the front and rear wheels.
He excitedly mentioned, 'After completing the restoration of the Mercedes, my passion grew stronger to acquire more vintage cars and restore them.'
Over two years ago, he stumbled upon the wreckage of a British Armstrong car. He spent more than a year refurbishing and assembling its parts until it took its final form: blue with a beige convertible roof.
Al-Shandi explained, 'The car maintains its original engine. I worked hard to match its original appearance by using specific parts from other vehicles or those closely resembling them and modifying them.'
Both classic vehicles do not deviate much from their original counterparts.
Inside the workshop, he stores a 1960 Audi car body. He also has a 1951 American Ford car and a 1975 Swedish Saab, both in disrepair but destined for restoration.
He stores these cars in a nearby garage, covered with fabric. He lamented the impossibility of taking them out of Gaza due to the blockade.
He said, 'This is a hobby; the cars are not for sale despite receiving numerous inquiries from abroad. Taking them out of Gaza is impractical due to the blockade.' He added that he previously applied for a work permit in Israel but was denied.
He concluded, 'My expertise could be put to use there. This would contribute to the development of my skills and improve my income, enabling me to restore more cars.'
Al-Shandi's ultimate wish is to participate in an international exhibition for vintage cars and to work in any foreign country that values this market.