Deir el-Balah, Gaza Strip – The air is filled with the tempting smell of burning firewood and freshly baked bread.
Fifty-three-year-old Inshirah Salem al-Aqra swears to anyone who will listen that food cooked in a wood-fired tabon is much richer in flavor.
He has been building these traditional clay ovens for a long time for anyone who wants them. Made of clay, animal dung and straw, the oven is hand-shaped and left to dry in the sun.
“People make mandis [slow-cooked chicken] in these ovens or bake bread,” said the mother of 10 children.
“Everything is so difficult in this war. People need tabuns even to make coffee or tea,” she added.
Fuel and electricity cuts across much of the Gaza Strip have pushed Palestinians back into tradition as they look for Al-Akra as the one woman who can make them taboo.
It is now her family’s only source of income after Israeli forces burned down her husband’s fishing boat last month.
Since last week, it has produced and sold five ovens ranging from 50 cm to 90 cm (20 to 35 inches) wide, more than it would have done in the previous month.
She kept her old prices and explained, “I don’t want to take advantage of people, especially in these times.”
The smallest oven costs 80 shekels ($21) and the largest costs 150 ($40).
The only mill in the Gaza Strip is unable to grind wheat due to fuel shortages following Israel’s total siege of the territory.
Al-Akra opened its home to displaced people who took shelter in nearby schools.
“They bring me flour so I can bake bread for them,” she said. “If I have clean water, I fill their jerry cans too.”
He hopes the war that has killed 13,000 Palestinians and devastated the Gaza Strip will end soon.
“That’s enough,” she said.
“We have lost so much. That’s enough.”