GazaSkyGeeks @GAZA

DAY#1

6:00 wake up in Amman: full of energy and ready for this great experience!

Driving to Jordan border with Mohamed very talkative taxy driver. I feel I still have to practice my arabic….

With me is my new friend Loren, amazing american woman very active in startups for women and perfect arabic speaker (only after 2 years living in the region…impressive!)

We arrived at Jordan-Israeli border that only open @ 8 :)

After papers we leave for Israeli border thought no-man-land

9:30 Israeli border
11:30 first interview for both : why are you here ? Where are you going?
12:30 second interview separated: why are you going to Gaza?
14:30 third interview for Lauren: ??
14:45 we are in !! We made it in only 5H….!

And I can have my first falafel sandwich: soft sesame bread, pickles and special withe sauce!

New country new taxy driver: Alladin shows us Westbank!

17:00 we finally arrive Arabreneur, 3 h after our event….
Hanan (CEO of Arabreneur), Maria mentor in Gaza as well and Akram Google ambassador in Palestina
18:00 we go to very famous restaurant Darna !

Hanan told me:

”Every Palestinian has 2 borders: the real one @ the checkpoint and one in the head he feel prisoner : internet help us to be free and pass both of them”

Akram give me an amazing gift: local zaatar and oil paste!

20:00 we visit Rawabi the only new Palestinian city, founded by Qatari for 40000 people

21:30 passing the Israeli checkpoint
21:40 arriving to AirBNb in Jerusalem
21:00 meeting others mentors in Damask gate: Iliana, Ted, Juan
10:10 Iliana told us she will not be able to enter Gaza this time… everything can happen @ the border!
11:00 taking picture of wailing wall

12:00 in bed writing this post and dreaming about Gaza trip tomorrow.

DAY #2

GazaSkyGeeks day 2:

6:00 wakeup in Jerusalem
7:00 leaving in Iliana car to Gaza

7:30 Looking @ Lifta ruins old gorgeous Palestinian village cleaned by Israel 1948
8:00 we talk about situation in Gaza
Juan talk about Venezuela: statistically more dangerous Vs Gaza since murders can happen everywhere.
Gov recently changed the definition of weekend to reduce statistics about murders…felt reassured….
8:51 we stopped in a coffeeshop: it looks like Dubai and it is only 1500 m from Gaza….!

9:30 Reach the border : modern huge hub built in the past today useless
9:45: security briefing about Gaza: 1)Israeli rockets 2)rockets missed 3)kidnapping 4)auto bombs in downtown….scared again

10:00 : passport check : “can I stamp your passport?” “no please :)

10:15 crossing the corridor 1.5 km walking

10:40 reaching Fatah checkpoint = Israel do not talk directly to Hamas. There is freewifi here!!!!

10:46 taxy to Hamas border

11:00 Crossing the north of Gaza by car ….

11:30 Amazing welcome @ SkyGeeks office! Soon much energy and a Googley office with fast internet connection!
11:35 Security briefing : strict curfew between 10 Pm and 7 AM
12:00 tea coffee and talks with people …Most loved questions: “I love Google can you tell me how to become a googler?!”

“I love Italy, Florence I am dreaming to go there, next time bring souvenirs from there please! “
A girl 22 years old : “I plan to work in Google or in NASA!” me “Wow!” her: “Yes we need to dream big to have success in life!”

12:30 Great preso on principles of a good presentation @ Maria
1:30 Market sizing presentation by Me + pushing collaboration delivering Google goodies :)

2:15 Lunch break
3:00 Touching moment: they prepared a big thanks for our donation!! I felt useful!

3:15 Pitching to investors principles preso: learned a lot!
4:00 discussing market potential for walk3charge startup = 2 super motivated young women ! One of them made me tea after to thanks!

6:00 Discovering our apartment with sea view!

8:00 Discussing start-ups potential to be ready to mentoring tomorrow
9:30 Time to bed!

DAY #3

8:30 wakeup: it is a sunny day !!

9:30 tea with fresh mint @ the office
9:45 Waseem Sayegh text me, suggesting to see Greek Orthodox church built in 425 AD, his grandfather lives next to it… He is from here and he couldn’t come back since 2010…
10:00 Bootcamp started : non CEO had to do elevator pitch of their company in English ( I was thinking how difficult could be for me doing the same in arabic @ 22 years old…)

10:35 amazing Lauren ( American ), who speaks perfect Arabic after only 2 years living in Morocco and Amman, coached about Finance in arabic….

10:39 testing karshallah cookies : amazing especially with tea!

11:00 First mentoring with Mockapp: very great tool to share creatives in a collaborative docs between creative agencies/freelance and clients.( we @ Google should offer it to all our clients…)
12:00 Talking with Walk&charge : they show me a real prototype of shoe insole device to charge batteries for phone using the walking movement. A real necessity in Gaza (and in others part of the world) where electricity can be down for days…
13:00 Challenging La Belle: social app about beauty advices in MiddleEast using my old L’Oreal experience:)
14:00 Halal classified Sabeel : they want to launch in London from Gaza !! I gave them advices on classified sites !!

15:18 Talking with Basiklat game company: my favorite team ! 3 guys: strong CEO with job experience in dev, young developer with 2 games highly rated in Play and a real artist that gave them the game characters!
They showed me a prototype of a game very very good about a car driving in a Arab city. I asked: “ How can I help? You are a strong team! The CEO told me: “You think I should leave my fix well paid job to concentrate in my startup ? I have children…”
I answered: “ I do not have an answer for you but I personally admire entrepreneurs because they had the courage of jumping!
You don’t have a game company: you have an artist, a strong dev team and a mission to create games to preserve the Arabic culture in young kids ! “ Nur Sahel draw my avatar: amazing!

18:30 Dinner: nice place with local food fished just in the Gaza sea in the morning.

We discussed about the war:
Difficult to find food and water
People run away from homes going to school to feel safe
Drones everywhere… it was during Ramadan so most of the population were fasting!
Moamin Salamah AbuEwaida, that worked in Dubai in the past, helped 2000 people in 51 days via donations from everywhere in the world via his friend’s community.
He became famous: “In Eid during the war an old woman asked him for flour to cook traditional fried fish while he was struggling to find water….
A guy said “ We went to the old Gaza after the war in a falafel shop: old guy said to Moamin I know you from FB !” ….

19:30 back to the room by taxi: not safe to walk around, yesterday night news reported several rockets from Gaza to Israel…
20:00 we discuss about startups that we mentor today: we are all fascinated by the incredible job and enthusiasm of these guys!
23:00 time to go to bed, tomorrow morning visit tour of Gaza !!

DAY#4

8:30 wakeup
9:30 big coffee to find new energy for another busy day of mentoring
10:30 local Manaish on the roof with astonish view of the port of Gaza.
Talking about sea: local fisherman can only go out 5 miles after Israel control access.
Marmara boat 3 year ago tried to delivered humanitarian help to Gaza: 9 people from Turkey were killed killed forcing Israeli block.

10:42 Gaza trip started !!! We can walk finally free in the port area. Here strong contrast between the blue beautiful sea and ruins of years of war.(they expand the damn with ruins of buildings).

11:00 Gaza beach with Baywatch troupes!!

11:30 old city tour : Gaza trip is big: 1.8 M people living here !
Basil,20 years old tomorrow and our tourist guide today, applied to several colleges in USA and he will start summer class in Lehigh University next week ! (he told us it was difficult because Syrian are preferred today considering their situation)

12:45 we arrive to San Porfirus church built in 400 AC, it was closed, but Maria spoken in Greek with the priest and we were able to see the incredible paintings.

12:00 Omari mosque 1000 year old, before was a church and it was given as a gift to Saracens. A woman looking at me said: “Wein inta?” “Min Italia!” “Baddi espresso?” “Laa and baddi Kenefe! “…😀

12:15 We visit a 430 year old house very similar to riads in Morocco with open square in the middle. I left a message in Italian :” A real pearl in the old Gaza, hopefully many tourist will be able to visit this place in the future”

Then we top for fresh watermelon @ Nasser in the street and finally Kenefe in a nice shop!

Back to the office mentoring starts:
1)Wasselni: huber+carpooling of Gaza, managed by a very strong girl and one of the first startups to collect funds.

2)Brailleboard=keyboard for blinds based on Perkins method developed by 2 girls : amazing ! Nour Koudsi I need you to put them in contact with Android team!

3)Finally I met with a team that develop a technological ball with many more features vs Adidas mode Alfonso Duro Roberto Sciarretta they need nice contacts in FIFA!
18:30 We are all invited in Moamin Salamah AbuEwaida ‘s house: the dinner is downstairs where he used to collect food for the people during last war and next to the a building completely destroyed during last war.

Talking with Mustafa about Gaza he told me “ You know, the news talk about the war and destruction but these are only weeks for us here we need to continue to live! We try to forget war! He is a developer and he is developing sites for Israeli clients…

20:00 food arrive: hommos with meat, liver and local homemade specialities: stomach and sausages stuffed with rise and tongue!!

21:00 I speak with Josh, here to work in security for UN expat: he confirmed rockets from Gaza are made locally and 50% don’t pass de fence, 40% land in open fields and the other 10% is destroyed by Israeli missile systems….
21:15 we buy some souvenirs in a shop where the 2 owners are deaf-mute and they teach us how to use signs language to spell their names.

22:30 packing my stuff …tomorrow is last day in Gaza for me and I am sad to leave!

LAST DAY

9:00 last visit to the GazaSkyGeeks and delivered the old phone that my Arabic professor donated making Maia very happy and connected :)

12:00 time to go back but before: souvenirs shopping and best falafel sandwich in town!

12:30 on the way back we pass trough villages on the North of Gaza: few buildings resists Israeli fire here and Bansky graffiti perfectly describe the situation…

This trip was full of emotions for me, I found amazing people that even in such a bad situation have their hart full of hope and the only think I can do is to promise that I will continue to support them and I will pray everyday for a bright future for GAZA!

NICOLA

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