Gaza City (Palestine): At first glance, Muneer Shindi’s automotive workshop looks just like most others in Gaza City’s industrial district.
But upon closer inspection, his badly-kept secret can be seen stowed in the corner, half-draped under a blue tarpaulin sheet with its French license plate peeking out: a gleaming replica of a vintage Mercedes-Benz, built by Shindi with his own hands.
"I love classic cars. My work there [in Dubai] was all with classics," says the car enthusiast, searching his phone for a photo of the 1920s-era Mercedes Gazelle that inspired him.
One of his friends had worked on the classic car when it was brought into a garage where they had worked in Dubai, where Shindi spent 12 years before returning to the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2014.
His desire to replicate every detail of the original -- from the red leather seating and the polished wing mirrors to the hinges and hubcaps -- meant he had to look outside Gaza for custom parts.
Most parts had to be imported from the U.S. and brought by friends through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, which -- due to the region’s muddled politics -- has remained closed for the better part of the last decade.
When Shindi’s masterpiece was finally unveiled and ready to drive, it turned heads wherever he went in Gaza.
"People are happy to see it," he said. "They make me stop the car so they can take pictures."
Shindi has received plenty of offers from admirers to buy the vehicle -- which, he estimates, he spent some $13,000 to craft -- but none have convinced him to part with the classic car.
"Someone once offered me about $20,000, but it [the car] represents almost two years of work," he said. "It wasn't worth it."
"I’m thinking about making another one, but only if I can sell this one for a good price," he explained. "Because I would need money for the materials needed to build another one."
"There aren’t many people who can make these kinds of cars," he said proudly. "It takes a lot of effort and money."
Since 2007, the Palestinian Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and building supplies.
According to a 2015 World Bank report, the nearly decade-long blockade has cut Gaza’s gross domestic product in half and led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described the blockade -- first imposed after resistance movement Hamas swept 2006 Palestinian polls -- as "collective punishment". (Anadolu Agency)