A Women-Only Coffee Shop in Palestine
Eight young women in Palestine flipped traditional gender roles when they opened a women-only coffee shop–right across the street from the men. Tired of being scrutinized for unwritten social faux-pas applicable solely to females in public, the women opened the ladies-only cafe to combat their men’s-only counterparts as well as to provide a place where girls can smoke hookah and cigarettes without being criticized.
“We feel bound by society’s boundaries to act in certain ways,” Sarah, a recent patron and fan of the cafe, told New Strait Times. “Some men don’t look at us in a good way if we smoke hookah, and thus we prefer to go to a place for women only.” Even gestures like laughing loudly are viewed as unseemly by men, Sarah adds.
The coffee shop features a piano, two sets of playing cards, and backgammon for its female patrons. The eight women behind the operation, aged 21 to 35, prepare fast food and hookah–some of it pink, NST notes– as well as manage the accounting and cleaning of the decorated cafe. Thus far, the only man permitted inside is the chef, but even he may be get the boot in favor of a female.
“We’re currently training other two girls to do that job,” Balsam Qaddoura, a 21-year-old English student and one of the ladies behind the shop, told NST. Exceptions will be made for male journalists only if the patrons agree to and are comfortable with it.
Balsam dreamt up the notion for the ladies coffee shop when, like the other women who understand and frequent the cafe, she felt out-of-place in public.
“The idea came to me when I was sitting in a coffee shop in Ramallah, I felt the need to hang out in a more comfortable environment,” she said.
Coffee shops aren’t the sole places in Palestine that separate the genders to ease social anxieties–gyms, hairdressers, and swimming pools are increasingly becoming gender-segregated, NST reports. Though some women raise concerns that the ladies-only establishments are a step away from modernization, Balsam defends their purpose.
“The girls have the same right to have a place of their own where they feel comfortable,” she said.
A pink, ladies-only sign out front ensures it.