GAZA CITY — Rain, shine or war, one bodybuilder’s day begins with a cup of instant espresso coffee — no sugar or milk — and a power walk, usually along the beachfront boardwalk of Gaza City.
On a chilly spring morning, with a smattering of rain, the beach cabanas were shuttered and the boardwalk’s corn shacks closed as Suhail al-Asaad began his daily workout.
But come summer, the beach will be crowded and Mr. al-Asaad, 43, and his fellow bodybuilders will spend hours lying on the sand, tanning their skin to an inhumanly bronze shade ahead of competitions abroad.
The beach is their best option; there are no tanning salons in Gaza.
Bodybuilding is popular in the Gaza Strip among men, both young and old, and a tiny but growing number of women. They are spurred to strap on back braces and heave weights by a 50 percent unemployment rate, a lack of other recreational options and the feeling of strength it provides amid a sense of powerlessness in the besieged strip.