I am fascinated by what makes a city tick. Every place has its own pace and style and I always want to go behind the scenes and see how things work.
While out walking one day in Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territories, I came across a store front that housed an ancient looking machine that seemed to be a conveyer belt for large polka dots.
After walking past a few times, surreptitiously taking photos, the young guys who worked inside waved me in and said I could take some photos and film if I wanted.
I realized I had stumbled into the city’s pita bread factory – the life blood of a town where hummus and pita make up a large part of the daily diet.
Inside I saw a huge machine that stretched out over three rooms and I observed the process from beginning to end. Starting with giant sacs of flour and an industrial strength mixer, the dough is rolled into balls, flattened, sliced, baked and packed away before it is snapped up and carried off to be eaten.
The little factory is a busy place, with the old machine rattling away, and team of men all expertly manning their posts along the assembly line. One of the employees told me they make 5,000 rounds of pita bread a day, and if anyone slacks off, the whole system could grind to a halt.
In the front of the shop I met Mr. Khalaf who inherited the bakery from his father. The Khalafs have been making bread here for nearly 40 years, and he told me it is the only pita factory in the city.
It is certainly a hub. The phone rings endlessly with people making orders, and vans are pulling up all day long loading in boxes of bread.
There is a steady stream of people – mostly young kids – walking in and out picking up the daily pita to take home. The younger employees split their time between packing hot bread into bags and making deliveries on their bikes and there are a few bikes popped up against the wall outside for easy access.
I noticed a few of the neighboring shop keepers popping in from time to time for a fresh, hot round of bread and a chat and they lovely guys who work inside treated me to a perfectly baked piping hot pita myself. It was still puffed up with air, having just been plucked from the conveyer belt and aside from burning my hands, it was delightful.