Feb 18 AT 3:41 PM Eric Weiss 27 Comments

Developing For Android… In Gaza

Computer programming is hard enough. Imagine having to use an alphabet completely different from your native one. Imagine doing it from, what is essentially, a war zone. Imagine you have never even seen the device you are programming for first-hand, nevermind tested your programs on one. This is the story of Mohammed, a 22 year old Palestinian living in Gaza and programming for Android.

The city of Gaza is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history that can be traced back 5000 years. Located on the Mediterranean Sea where the African and Asian continents meet, it was an important stopover for spice traders as well as a key military point in the past. It is no wonder then that the city has been attacked and conquered by many different civilizations in it’s long history including the Egyptians, Romans, Ottomans and even for a short while the French Army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Jump to modern times. Since 1967, when Israel defeated the Egyptian army in the Six Day War, Gaza has been under an Israeli embargo. The embargo only intensified in 2007 when Hamas, a group classified by the United States, European Union, and several other countries as a terrorist organization, won local elections. Under the tightened embargo, only very basic items are allowed in and “virtually no exports permitted, paralyzing the economy” according to the BBC. Despite all this, the people of Gaza live, work, and learn as best they can.

Mohammad Yahya Al Musaddar is 22 and is set to graduate soon from the Islamic University of Gaza with a degree in Computer Engineering. His interest is in the Android platform despite never having seen or held an Android device in person. He says in Gaza there are mostly Symbian phones and a few iPhones, but no Android devices. Because of this he works 100% in the emulator, learning from examples and books. One added challenge Mohammed faced was the fact that programming for Android is done using the English alphabet and his native language is Arabic. That’s like you or I learning to program in Cyrillic. Despite all this, he has managed to create a small, simple and clean currency converter while studying for his degree.

I talked to Mohammad through email while he prepared for his Senior Graduation Project Presentation this coming Saturday. While he has every right to complain and be bitter about his situation, he is upbeat and hopeful about the future: “…you may think life here is dark as night but also we have joy and hope and good people. We challenge our life to be happy.”

There is an irony that someone so closed in and contained would learn to program for what is essentially one of the most open and free platforms. Or maybe it is just fitting for someone so optimistic.

Mohammad is eager to meet and talk with other Android developers. You can reach him via email, Twitter or Facebook. His website is mussadar.com. We all here at Android And Me wish him the best of luck this Saturday during his Senior Graduation Project Presentation.

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  • http://Website Usman

    @Eric Wow… pretty interesting story. Perhaps you guys could set up a collection to buy this guy a NexusOne or something?! Not sure how we’d get it into Gaza, but can’t be that hard if they get guns and rockets in. ;)

    • http://Website strghtoutofcali

      Well, looks like someone got their douchiness of the day out, of the way early, Congrats!

      • http://Website Inquisitor

        What exactly was douchey about that? I think it’s a good idea. And he wasn’t being racist or anything, he just stated facts. Not everybody in Gaza is a terrorist, but there are terrorists there and they have been able to smuggle weapons. He was just saying we could maybe get this guy an N1.

        • http://Website straghtoutofcali

          Im not here to discuss politics or any of that sort. This is an Android fans website. But I expect respect from others as well. keep your silly illogical, fox news ideas out of this blog. That’s all.

          • http://Website Inquisitor

            You’re really being a hypocrite here. What’s so illogical about what either of us are saying? I’m not stating any political opinion.

          • http://Website Usman

            Whoa! I didn’t realize my comment would get such a bad reaction. First off, I was joking. Second, my name is Usman Ansari. I’m a Muslim, and I think the vast majority of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the 139 sq. mile Gaza Strip are very fine people who are struggling because of illegal embargoes from both Israel and Egypt. Despite my failed attempt at humor about getting something into Gaza, the point of my post was just that we should all pool like $5 each together and buy the guy a Nexus One. What better way to promote the openness of Android?

            Feel better now?

  • http://Website friedgoldmole

    Interesting article, made me think surely all mainstream programming languages, i,e, ones you can use to develop for mobile platforms are english based?

  • http://Website Green Monster

    Whoa that guy is awesome!

  • http://Website Michael

    I couldn’t help crying as I read this story, really. All my napkins are wet. Poor Mohammed cannot buy himself a Nexus! How tragic!!!

    You don’t think Israel has closed its border with Gaza just for a pleasure of it, do you? The people of Gaza Strip have brought this onto themselves by preferring to be ruled by bunch of the most cruel and fanatical group of Islamic fundamentalists this planet has ever known. You conveniently omitted mentioning endless terror attacks over the border of Gaza against Israel civilians and border personnel. And about those 10,000 rockets that Hamas has fired at Israeli cities just over the last ten years. Why not to mention that, too?

    And, while we’re at it, Egypt has common border with Gaza, and that border is closed, too. Why? Ask Egyptians. Perhaps they don’t wont to let Islamic terrorists enter their country either.

    You would do all of us a lot of favor if you avoided politics in this forum. Especially about issues you have not a slightest clue about.

    • http://Website Mike

      he’s just stating the situation the dude is living in. you’re taking it to another level by being overly political about it.

    • http://Website xman

      Aw look, Another one of those Israeli paid online commentators that roam the nets, how cute, dont forget to wear your white and blue behind the computer screen !! :)

    • http://Website Inquisitor

      I’m not disagreeing with your ideas (I actually support it), but it has absolutely no place here. This is about android. Sure, the post was slightly leaning toward the Palestinians in Gaza, but going all pro-Israel only derails it more and makes things worse. You’re making our side look bad, and attracting douchebags to flame you like xman.

    • http://Website Saadia Greenberg

      The personal side of this article was interesting but Eric’s take on the history of Gaza is distorted. Gaza does manage to “export” tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. Furthermore, Gaza was pretty much closed off during the Egyptian occupation from 1948-1967. From 1967 on it was not embargoed until Hamas took over.

      Hiding Michael’s comment is a disgraceful suppression of truthful dissent.

      • http://Website Imad Sharieff

        what about Irgun attacks, it was the first conflict between Israel and Palestine and was started by Zionist.
        take a look at this articles


        Infact Irguns(Zionist terrorist) were consider the first terrorist group in this conflict, Infact they also attacked Britishers in some raids and the Palestinians were always the victims.

        And truth to be told which people rejected Jesus?

        • http://Website Inquisitor

          I think it’s fair to say you’re the first person here to be outright racist. Way to go.

          • http://Website Usman

            What racist comment has he made? The point about the Irgun is true and common knowledge outside of our country… Are you implying that simply criticizing zionism or Israeli policies is racist? If so, I feel sorry for your lack of intellectual flexibility.

            That being said, we all need to get back on topic. So anyone down to start a collection for this guy or what?

          • http://Website Inquisitor


            “And truth to be told which people rejected Jesus?” — Kind of racist.

  • http://www.typhon4android.org Mike Leahy

    I agree with the “Mike” above.. The article isn’t pro one side or another. It’s a extended tragedy for all I’m afraid. For some context and quite well produced 2 part series I really liked Ross Kemp’s latest offering:

    Gaza episode here (couldn’t find the Israel one on quick search)

    I for one am taking internationalization of Typhon and all the Android tutorials I plan to produce on 2D/3D programming very seriously. In fact it’s the 1st thing I plan to fund, well, after I get funding. ;P

    I’ve sent a message to Mohammad to see if he has interest in assisting translation of the core text (~30 strings / ~150 words) used in Typhon to Arabic via externalized strings / resources in exchange for a full commercial license including the offerings I’ll have out this year.

    I also have taken the time to produce 2D tutorials that cover the core math necessary for 3D / OpenGL ES dev making sure things run in the emulator.. Sadly OpenGL ES apps can’t be relied to run in the emulator beyond trivial examples. So no Auriga3D / Q3 engine running in the emulator I’m afraid.

    Android is a worldwide phenomenon, embrace it, and encourage those who wield it’s power to do good.

  • http://Website demize!

    I’m sorry any discussion of The occupied Territories is inherently political. This is what Zionism is, making an indiginous resident of his home do without, while invaders steal the resources that are his birthright as well as brutalize every resident either through embargo or outright violence. Thank you for a fair article that shows the resourcefulness of a beleguered people. Imagine what this young man could accomplish with all the resources we take for granted.

  • jthreads

    this is what gives me goosebumps, this guy’s got something to look forward despite his political situation. This is what i like about android, Freedom

  • http://Website Emil  Begtrup-Bright

    @Demizel: Well said :)

    By the way, I think it’s a bit annoying that you can’t make a joke like Usman did without being called pro-israel – I mean come on, it was a joke, and it isn’t pro-israel to say that weapons are being smuggled into Gaza, because they are – that’s not at all the same as saying that Israel is right in any way.

    • http://Website Usman

      Not to mention… I’M PRO-PALESTINIAN!!! Although I vehemently disagree with targeting civilians or suicide bombings, I understand that the particular people (not a majority by any means) undertaking such actions are motivated by a sense of retribution and sheer desperation. By no means do I support, in any conceivable way, Israel’s policies that amount to straightforward apartheid. Yes, I said it… Israel is an apartheid state just like S. Africa in the recent past. Just had to clarify… I’m up on my history, unlike most people… and I have no problem thinking for myself rather than allowing Fox News and the Zionist Org. of America (zoa.org) to spoonfeed me drivel to regurgitate to anyone who knows facts.

      • http://Website Inquisitor

        Now you’re just being ridiculous. First you criticize the Irgun yet you advocate the Palestinian terrorists killing innocent Israeli civilians. The Irgun fought against the oppressive British who held Palestine, while the terrorists in Gaza are just killing innocent civilians. Israel is far from apartheid, the Palestinians are being treated this way for making the decisions they made like electing a terrorist regime to power (Hamas). Also, it’s very convenient of all you guys to vote down Saadia’s facts. Israel only started embargoing Gaza since Hamas gained power. If you’re so into facts, why would you ignore those?

        • http://Website Usman

          No, I’m afraid you’re being ridiculous. I never advocated Palestinian targeting of civilians… I expressly stated my opposition to such tactics. That being said, the Irgun targeted civilians as well. Try a simple search about their history, and you’ll see that in addition to targeting the British colonialists, they went into Palestinian villages and slaughtered innocent men, women and children as part of their campaign to “incentivise” Palestinians’ leaving for Jordan, Egypt or Lebanon. That’s terrorism buddy… and the Irgun introduced it into the region, plain and simple.

          Israel IS an apartheid state by definition… non-Jews are treated like second class citizens, while Arab-Israelis and Arab-Palestinians are segregated… they can’t use the same roads as the settlers, for example, and they aren’t permitted to simply drive through border crossings… they must be questioned and searched individually (and then can be turned around without cause).

          As for Gaza and the blockade… that is expressly illegal under international law. You can’t collectively punish an entire people due to the politics of a small group of them.

          Stop drinking the kool-aid and wake up. It’s clear your knowledge is nothing more than the spoonfed garbage you’ve been fed by “certain groups”.

  • http://www.androidui.net ExtremeT

    This article has every right to be posted here as it IS Android based in subject. The article, which a lot of people seems to not clue into, is about one dude who is overcoming a difficult situation and bettering himself. One way he is doing it is by graduating university and also by being able to develop android apps without even having a phone available for testing and having to learn an entire language just to be able to make a damn currency converter in his quest for learning Android programming.

    There was really no sides being picked in this article and no it inherently wasn’t political in nature. Just because the guy lives in Gaza doesn’t mean it’s a political article in any regard.

    Fact: Doing all that this man has been able to do while dealing with being in a war zone, not knowing the native language that android comes in, not having a phone to test it on (which DOES help immensely with real world testing of applications) and overcoming the situation in a positive attitude is what this article is about and is only about that. This is what people should be focusing on.

    It’s 90% of the people commenting about the politics surrounding Gaza that is making this a political article when it’s not.

    And I think setting up a fund or something to get this guy a phone whether a nexus one or a G1 is a damn good idea and regardless of the phone model I’m sure this guy would be overly happy just to have one.

    • http://Website Usman

      Thank you! I admit I’ve been pulled into the political discussion, though my initial comment was in no way meant to illicit such a response.

      Anyway, DOES ANYONE KNOW THE BEST WAY TO START A COLLECTION? I think we should go with an N1 for this guy… a G1 is an option, but by the time he gets it, it’ll be outdated…

      • http://Website mossawi

        way to go usman!! you handed these idiots their asses.

        the best way to set up a pool for mohammed is via paypal, I suggest you be the administrator of the account. unfortunately, only open minded people would consider contributing and from the looks of it, there aren’t many here.

        send it as your yearly zakat