Oct 26, 2012 / 3:45 pm
The circus came to Gaza on Friday, accompanied by blaring music, juggling clowns and fire blowers, but getting it there required its own high-wire act.
No women performers were included for fear of offending conservative Palestinians and the Gaza Strip's militant Hamas rulers, and the circus' lone lion and tiger were left behind because of the high cost of transporting them legally into Gaza.
The Egyptian National Circus put on its first show of a month-long visit to the impoverished coastal territory on Friday, a sign of warmer relations between Hamas and post-revolution Egypt, which is governed by the Islamic group's ideological parent, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Although it's not state-sponsored, the Egyptian circus could only come because the country's government loosened restrictions on the flow of passengers in and out of Gaza. More foreigners now enter Gaza, including the ruler of the resource-rich Gulf state Qatar earlier this week.
Once in Gaza, the Egyptians' faced an unusual situation, most Palestinians here don't know what a circus is.
"I think it's going to be really surprising for most people," said Riwa Awwad, 19, ahead of the opening night.
"Gazans are famous for not liking anything and I think they'll do the impossible to entertain us," said Awwad, who came with her extended family to the fairground on Friday.
In an ironic twist, the cheery circus with its flashing lights was held on the grounds of a notorious security prison that was destroyed during an Israeli offensive four years ago.
For the Gazans fortunate enough to see the opening show, it was a welcome relief from conflict and despair. The fairgrounds were packed with excited children in new cloths, women in glittery headscarves, others in black face veils, and men in suits and freshly pressed shirts. Families snacked on pumpkin seeds.
They hollered and cheered as a tight-rope walker wiggled his hips and belly-danced on a thread suspended above the ground. A performer hurled silver knives around volunteers. A red-clad fire blower shot whooshing, yellow licks of flame out of his mouth. Two clowns dressed in yellow-and-blue bumbled and fumbled as they tried to juggle, delighting children.
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