First-time visitors to Paris usually head for the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower; others spend their time in cafés and restaurants. But when Muhammad Abu Sal, 35, a Palestinian artist from the Gaza Strip traveled to Paris, he had very different itinerary. Unlike his fellow tourists, he visited French transportation companies and metro stations and spent time studying metro maps. He had one goal for his trip – Metro Gaza.
Abu Sal’s idea is inspired by Gaza’s many tunnels which, since the closure of the Strip, have become a critical part of Gaza’s economy. It’s difficult to estimate how many tunnels there are in Gaza today but they are used for smuggling weapons, people and goods. Abu Sal, however, imagines a different future for Gaza’s tunnels – he wants to transform them into a metro service and in doing so, help solve Gaza’s transportation problems.
In January, Abu Sal’s ‘A Metro in Gaza’ was displayed at the French Cultural Center. His planned metro includes seven lines and 200 stations in different neighborhoods throughout Gaza. One of the lines connects Gaza to the Sinai Desert; another, line no. 1, connects Erez Crossing in Gaza’s north to Rafah Crossing in the south.
Abu Sal is not an engineer and, as he puts it, he is only suggesting a “visual solution”. Other than mapping the stations and drawing the route, Abu Sal also designed a large ‘M’ sign for the metro which he photographed in 50 different locations in the Strip. He says many people who were photographed next to the sign took the idea seriously. Some were cynical, some liked it, but either way, “people started talking about it seriously”. And according to Abu Sal, “there were a few who believed this project was actually going to happen”.
Abu Sal’s metro might never be built, and its large ‘M’ signs might not ever grace Gaza’s neighborhoods, but Abu Sal talks about Gaza in a way that very few others are prepared to do. He dares to imagine a different reality and envision the future, despite the uncertainty of the day-to-day: “My dream is to see Gaza as a quiet, stable place, but I don’t want people here to just be able to eat, drink and sleep peacefully. I want Gaza to be a creative, thriving place, a place that makes a contribution to its environment”. Even if it’s just a distant dream, at least Abu Sal dares to dream it.