The fragrance of roses and birds' whistling were irresistible at the square of the Unknown Soldier in downtown Gaza city, despite a deteriorated economy in the Gaza Strip as a result of more than eight years of Israeli blockade.
The square has been a symbolic shrine for the Palestinians' struggle that witnessed rallies and demonstrations over the past four decades. It became an attraction on Thursday and Friday for the impoverished coastal enclave's population, who went for the Spring Fair of ornamental birds, fishes and flowers.
A large tent was erected at the center of the square for the annual three-day show which is jointly organized by the Hamas-run ministries of agriculture and the ministry of environment.
Various kinds of roses, flowers, little green trees and plants for homes and gardens filled the place, together with wood cages of colorful birds and glass basins filled with beautiful colorful fish.
"The fragrance of roses and the whistling of birds provided us with a sense of calm in an area that has been always famous for bloody wars and conflicts," said Gaza resident Hekmat el-Banna, who came with his wife and three children.
The organizers said that the event "is meant to help owners of birds and flower shops market their product amid difficult Israeli and Egyptian economic sanctions on the Islamic group that has been ruling the Palestinian enclave since July 2007."
"As you can see, the show is really busy and shop owners have sold well. Visitors are also happy with it and they hope that it would be extended to more than three years," said Eyad al-Qatrawi, one of the organizers from the Hamas-run ministry of environment.
The exhibits used to be smuggled through tunnels underneath the borders between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt. Many of the roses and birds are originally from Africa and Asia.
However, Egypt closed down all the tunnels after the ouster of its former Islamic President Mohamed Morsi in early July last year. Hamas accused both Israel and Egypt of tightening the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip to force the movement end its control of Gaza.
In the tent of the show, visitors, mainly children and women, were excited to see huge varieties of birds, including love birds, singing canaries, java sparrows and Chinese wild pigeons.
Just a few meters away, the flower exhibition gave another charm to visitors. Many kinds of colorful roses, trees and bushes were put on display.
"The show is great and I'm proud that we have such a thing here. I really like everything exhibited here," said Iman, a woman who was attracted by the show.
The visitors were delighted with the colors of rare flowers that originally come from different areas across the world like Asia, Africa and the Americas. A smaller corner exhibited a variety of unusual colorful fish.
"The goal of the show is not only economic. One of the goals is to promote backyard habitats for birds and flowers. City beautification and garden care were also among the interest," said Hamed Abu Shaweesh, a visitor.
Despite the tough financial situation in Gaza, many people bought birds and flowers for their homes and gardens. Sellers say beauty must always be there, even when wars are dominating the area