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Tuk Tuks replace mules on Gaza streets

Sept. 12, 2010 4:35 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 15, 2010 3:54 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- During Gaza's Spring, the three-wheeled vehicles began making an appearance on the streets of Khan Younis and Gaza City, but by Eid, they had taken over from the donkey cart, becoming ubiquitous.

Residents say the Tuk Tuk, popular in Southeast Asia and parts of East Africa, is faster than a donkey, cheaper than a donkey, makes less waste, and is requires less maintenance.

Gaza's Ministry of Transport and Communications first allowed Tuk Tuks on the road for farmers transporting tools and produce, but its use quickly became apparent in the narrow city streets, as well as in Gaza's refugee camps.

Every one of Gaza's Tuk Tuks was smuggled into the coastal enclave via tunnels underneath the Egyptian borders, as Israel continues a ban on most vehicles, with a limited number being allowed into the Strip for UN and medical use in June, after three years of a blanket prohibition.

With a cart that can carry six and the engine of a motorcycle, the Tuk Tuk earns drivers more than what a taxi would, but its uses quickly proliferated beyond the transportation of fruits, vegetables and families.

"I use the Tuk Tuk for my work. In the morning I load the things I have for sale into the cart, and drive it around the markets all day. I really like the vehicle, it makes my life easier," Muhammad, a house cleaning supplies sales man from Gaza City said.

At 1,200-1,800 a pop for a new vehicle, and less if one is cobbled together out of spare parts, the Tuk Tuk is easily dismantled and reassembled for tunnel transportation, and fuel efficient as supplies remain scarce.

While some Gaza residents lament the disappearance of the donkey from city streets, others enjoy the small luxury of faster, more inexpensive travel.
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