A group of Palestinian lads are taking to the streets of Gaza and using their surroundings to bulk up in what they’re calling “urban bodybuilding”.
The sport was inspired by a Swedish fitness trend, discovered by Bakr al-Makadmeh through YouTube videos, and for nearly a year he has been training with other young Gazans.
Makadmeh works 12 hours a day at a motorcycle spare parts shop but says “every other day” he gets together with other members of the ‘Bar Palestine’ team for two hours of street workout on the Mediterranean waterfront.
The movement clearly also has its roots in parkour – the French the urban sport combining running, acrobatics and gymnastics – and much like that demanding discipline, the Palestinian practitioners of urban bodybuilding point out the rigours of the sport are not for everyone.
Speaking to AFP, Makadmeh said:
These moves, you can’t learn them in just one day, it took me six months to get them right. [Our group] started off with 20, now we are just four.
The four friends, three of whom live in the Shati refugee camp, practice their sport with the means available — their rusty bar is wobbly and instead of chalk to dry the sweat from their hands and strengthen their grip, they use sand stuck to their feet.
Suleiman Taleb, a 21-year-old teaching student, added:
We are the first street workout team in Palestine. In Gaza, despite the blockade, despite the wars and everything we’ve been through, you can live like anyone else and innovate.
Urban bodybuilding was born on the streets but, in Gaza, even the streets are ill-equipped to accommodate the sport.
Nasmane, another 21-year-old student, added:
We contacted the municipality, the authorities in charge of youth and sports, but nobody answered us. And when we set up our own equipment — paid out of our own pocket — in a park, we found it dismantled and discarded a few days later. There is so much talent here — artists, athletes, singers — but so few have been able to follow through and make it on the outside.
Their dream is to take part in international competitions so they can finally meet the athletes who inspired them.