About – Rafah – The city, the history, the border crossing and where to stay
Rafah is a city with a long history. It dates back 3000 years to the time when it was a stop along a route the military took to help protect the region. Throughout the years -there have been many conflicts and disputes in the area. There have been times when the city has be desolate and times when it was a major commerce point and transportation stop. In recent history it has become an area where many refugees have lived. It is on the border of Egypt and Gaza. It is also on the Mediterranean sea. Rafah was split in half in recent history when the Egyptian government and Israel signed a treaty to cease hostilities. Part of the arrangement was to create a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt. The concern was that security would be in danger without a buffer zone. The buffer zone had some unintended consequences such as splitting Rafah in half. The result was some families were literally split apart with half of them ending up on the Egyptian side and half on the Gaza side. Another consequence of the treaty was that many homes were demolished to make room for the buffer zone. This caused many families to lose their homes and their livelihood. The access to both sides is tightly controlled by the border guards from Egypt. This is because of security concerns by both the Egyptians and the Israelis. Both sides are concerned with militants in the Gaza area obtaining weapons and attaching both countries. There is also concerns about the tunnels that have been discovered leading from Gaza to Rafah underground. These start in homes underground and have been used to smuggle illegal goods and weapons. This was a great security concern by Egypt and Israel and caused many of the demolitions that have occurred to create a larger and larger buffer zone.
The crossing at the Rafah border is a point of great difficulty. The security concerns have caused the Rafah border crossing to be closed more lately then open. This makes life very difficult for those living in Gaza and Rafah. To go in and out when the crossing is open you must have special permission to enter and exit Gaza. The closing was closed for 85 days recently. It was opened in May 2016 at the end of the month in preparation for the holiday of Ramadan and then again for the 5 days before the holiday of Eid Al- fitr.
Despite all this turmoil, Rafah has many historical landmarks in it. Including a fort that is believed to be 3000 years old. There are also many attractions to be seen in Gaza and Gaza city. I will discuss some of the areas of interest in this blog as well as some hotel suggestions. I do say all this with a caveat, it is not very safe in the area for tourists at this time. The hope is that in the future things will be more stable for visit is to the area and to explore all the history and beautiful beaches.