The Boeing 707 in the West Bank that’s been converted into a restaurant
Twin brothers in the occupied West Bank have converted an old Boeing 707 into a cafe and restaurant.
The area has no civilian airport and those who can afford a plane ticket must catch their flight in neighboring Jordan, so few Palestinians can ever board a plane.
But just outside the northern city of Nablus, Khamis al-Sairafi and brother Ata offer the people the next best thing.
Twin brothers in the occupied West Bank have converted an old Boeing 707 into a café and restaurant
Ninety-nine percent of Palestinians have never used an airplane. Only our ambassadors, diplomats, ministers and mayors use them. Now they see a plane and it’s for them,” Khamis al-Sairafi said.
After a quarter of a century of effort, the brothers opened the Palestinian-Jordanian Airline Restaurant and Coffee Shop al-Sairafi on July 21.
Families, friends and couples showed up for drinks at the cafe under the plane’s body.
Many others came in to take pictures at a cost of five shekels (about £1.10) per person.
The eatery – called the Palestinian-Jordanian Airline Restaurant and Coffee Shop al-Sairafi – opened on July 21
Customers said they were motivated to visit after seeing photos of the refurbished aircraft online.
“I’ve wanted to see this place for a long time. I wish I had seen this place before it turned into a cafe,” said customer Majdi Khalid.
For years, the jet plane stood by the side of a main road in the northern West Bank, providing endless fodder for conversation to passersby who were stunned by its hulking presence.
The plane is owned by twin brothers Khamis al-Sairafi and brother Ata. transformed into a cafeteria
The 60-year-old identically dressed twins’ dream of turning the plane into a cafe and restaurant was born in the late 1990s when Khamis spotted the derelict Boeing plane near the northern Israeli city of Safed.
The aircraft already had an illustrious history back then.
The plane was used by the Israeli government from 1961 to 1993 and flew then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to the United States in 1978 to sign Israel’s historic peace agreement with Egypt, according to Channel 12 TV.
It was later bought by three Israeli business partners who dreamed of turning it into a restaurant, but the project was halted after disagreements with local authorities, the station said.
After tracking down one of its owners, the brothers agreed to buy it for $100,000 (£72,000) in 1999.
They spent another $50,000 (£36,000) for licenses, permits and to transport it to the West Bank.
Khamis said then-mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shakaa, quickly approved the transportation and renovation of the plane.
Moving the plane to Nablus was a 13-hour operation that involved dismantling the wings and temporarily closing roads in Israel and the West Bank.
The interior has been freshly painted, has electricity and nine tables and the doors are connected to two old jetways allowing customers to board safely
At the time, Israel and the Palestinians were engaged in peace talks and moving back and forth was relatively easy.
The al-Sairafi brothers were successful traders and scrap merchants.
They traveled regularly to and from Israel to buy pieces of metal which they then sold and melted down in the West Bank.
The brothers also ran a successful waste disposal business and used their earnings to build an amusement park — including a swimming pool and concert hall — on the same plot of land where the plane was located.
But they said their project was halted after the second Palestinian uprising broke out in late 2000.
An Israeli military checkpoint was being built nearby, they said, preventing customers from the nearby city of Nablus from reaching the site.
The checkpoint remained standing for three years and the Israeli military took over the site.
The project collapsed.
“They even built tents under the wings of the plane,” Ata al-Sairafi said.
The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment.
For nearly 20 years, the plane and site were abandoned.
The brothers’ dream of turning the plane into a cafe and restaurant was born in the late 1990s when Khamis spotted the derelict Boeing plane near the northern Israeli city of Safed.
After the uprising died down in the mid-2000s, the brothers scraped through their garbage disposal business and the small amusement park in Nablus that they opened in 2007.
After saving for more than ten years, in 2020 they decided to start rebuilding what they had lost, this time starting with the renovation of the aircraft.
The coronavirus crisis, which included multiple lockdowns, hit the Palestinian economy hard and caused further delays.
The plane, pictured here in 2009 awaiting conversion, was used by the Israeli government from 1961 to 1993 and flew then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to the United States in 1978 to sign Israel’s historic peace agreement with Egypt, according to Channel 12 TV.
After months of work, the aircraft is almost ready for full service.
The interior has been freshly painted, has electricity and nine tables and the doors are connected to two old jetways allowing customers to board safely.
The nose of the aircraft is painted with colors of the Palestinian flag and the tail with Jordanian colors.
The plane/cafe is located just outside the northern city of Nablus, pictured
The cafe is already open and the brothers hope to open the restaurant next month.
They plan to install a kitchen under the plane’s body to serve food to onboard customers.
However, their long-term goal of rebuilding the amusement park and pool is still a long way off.
The couple said they were disappointed that they had not received financial support from the municipality and are looking for investors.
“God willing, I hope the project works and that it becomes the best it can be,” Ata al-Sairafi said.