Armed with the children's drawings from the past two days (feels like much longer), I hired a driver / fixer / translator to take me around Gaza to the various places where toys are sold. I was hunting for the props that will help tell the children's stories.
Ashraf Al-Masrv came highly recommended. He's worked with a number of journalists I know, even more that I don't. His collection of business cards is impressive. Ashraf and I crisscrossed the territory, first visiting the more modern shops in central Gaza City.
King Toys is by far the largest toy store I've seen in the Palestinian Territories. However, their selection wasn't much different than the small shops that dot East Jerusalem. The same cheap, Chinese-made toys seem to pop up everywhere, but they were exactly what I was looking for.
From there we traveled to the Daraj Quarter of the Old City, through the open air markets near the Great Mosque of Gaza.
There were small shops spread throughout the area, next to caged rows of live chickens, rabbits, and pigeons. The vendors all had similar, yet slightly different toy offerings.
I was able to find most of the props I was looking for, as well as some interesting surprises. For one, there wasn't single name brand toy. There were several bootlegs, including a "Fullah" doll modeled off of the so-called "Middle Eastern Barbie" Fulla.
And I also managed to find a unique toy artifact that in NO WAY reflects any drawing made by the children. Osama-bin-Punching-Puppet is coming home with me as a souvenir, assuming the IDF finds it as amusing as I do at the border crossing.
Sadly, they didn't have the Mr. T puppet from the packaging photo. It would have made for a odd pairing.
Tomorrow being Friday (Islamic holy day), the city is largely shut down. I'm using that as excuse to lock myself in a room, comb through the children's drawings, and sketch the shots I hope to achieve with my remaining time in Gaza. The mini-mountain of toys that I purchased today will be unwrapped, further documented, and auditioned in my mind. These objects will take on new life as surrogates for the children and reflections of their daily lives here.