An update from Hana
Jun 28, 2024
Season 9

An update from Hana

Hana Albaioumy shares an update on her flight from Gaza.

When we last heard from Hana Albaioumy, she was faced with an agonizing decision. She was contemplating what it would take to flee the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza. The only way for her to evacuate Gaza was by crossing the border with Egypt, but it would cost a lot of money, as much as $5,000 a person.

It was hard to imagine spending that much. Hana had worked hard her whole life to help her family climb out of poverty. She’d succeeded and created a career for herself at an international humanitarian organization. Her efforts brought her enough money to leave Gaza with her husband, but she’d still have to start from scratch. 

Now she’s doing just that. Hana and her husband left for Cairo in April, but they couldn’t afford to bring the rest of their family with them. Before she fled, she’d imagined that leaving Gaza would at least help her rest easier. It had been so long since she’d even had decent food. But now that she and her husband are in Cairo, they’re isolated. They have no idea what’s next. And Hana still can’t manage to keep food down. 

In this update, we’ll hear from Hana about what it was like to say goodbye to her family, how she’s coping with the violence in Gaza from afar, and the one fleeting moment when she felt like her old self, from before the war began. 

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Reema Khrais: Well first of all, how are you doing? 

Hana Albaimouy: I’m okay, as okay as it can be.

Reema: So where are you right now? 

Hana: I’m in our apartment in Egypt, in Cairo.

Reema: So you’re no longer in Gaza, you made it out? 

Hana: Yes I made it out mid April.

Reema: What was that like? What was it like leaving Gaza? 

Hana: Oh uhh that’s a very difficult answer, uh question to answer actually… 


Reema Khrais: Back in February, we shared an episode where I talked with Hana Albaimouy about her life in Gaza. She shared what it was like growing up there – the financial struggles she faced, how she worked really hard to build a better future for herself and how so much of that crumbled last fall when Israel began its ongoing assault on Gaza after the attack from Hamas. 

Hana’s life forever changed. She was forced to evacuate her home. She fled with her cat and her husband, trying to find shelter where they could. Like most Palestinians in Gaza, she’s lost family members and friends from Israel’s bombardment. According to the United Nations, more than 37-thousand Palestinians have been killed since last October.

Meanwhile Israel’s military operation has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis – mass displacement, extreme shortages of food, medicine and fuel. Hospitals, schools, entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by more than eight months of bombardment. Experts say it’ll take decades to rebuild Gaza.

When I last talked with Hana, she was in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza strip. She was living in a crowded house with other displaced families. She considered herself lucky that she still had a job, working for a humanitarian organization. But each day, she was finding it harder to stay hopeful.

She felt depressed, and she was sick from the contaminated water and from eating canned food every day. Here’s a snippet from our last conversation months ago: 


Hana: We have been doing what they have been requesting over the past three months. I mean, we have evacuated from Gaza. We have been to Khan Younis, we have left Khan Younis. We have been asked to go to Rafah. We’re now in Rafah, and that’s the only place that everyone has now. And it’s not even safe, So it’s just scaring, actually, everybody. The fact that they might do this.

Reema: Just, just to be clear, like Rafah has right by the border in Egypt. 

Hana: Yes.

Reema: So you’re already cornered.

Hana: Exactly. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know. No one really knows.


Reema Khrais: We stayed in touch after the episode published and then one day out of the blue, she messaged me, “I’m in Cairo now.” 


Hana: Leaving Gaza was the most difficult decisions I have ever taken in my life, to be honest 

Reema: Why do you say that? 

Hana: I mean…*sigh* it was super complicated, you know? It’s like my whole life, honestly, I wanted to get out of Gaza, but I just wanted to make it out to improve the quality of life. You know what I mean? Just to study maybe, to spend some years there, to work. I, I wanted to do it differently.

Reema: Right, not under these circumstances.

Hana: Yes, not to be forced out! It’s just either you stay there and live these difficult circumstances or either die, or you leave. 

Reema: Yeah. What did it feel like when you stepped foot into Cairo? Like, did you feel like you could breathe easier? Did it feel surreal? 

Hana: Yeah, it was really weird, you know, after seven months of almost no life – like no electricity, streets are all dark, all gray, the pollution – to a place, you know, Cairo, it’s like full of life. It’s like really busy night and day.

Reema: It’s a bustling city. 

Hana: It’s really, really busy, Yeah! And like people are just living, you know, it’s just life out there!

Reema: Yeah. Just miles away from Gaza, too.

Hana: Yes, yes, just next door. Like when you’re in Gaza, you forget that people are living normal lives outside.

Reema: Mmm.

Hana: you know, as if the time has stopped just, you know, since October the 7th. Because it was like same, same, same every day: the same suffering, the same routine. Like we keep saying, it actually feels like a very long, non-ending day. And then I thought I would just go to the supermarket and start buying stuff and eating stuff, you know, like, fruits, and you know, all of these like chocolates because I didn’t have them for seven months.

Reema: Yea!

Hana: But then I came here, and  I didn’t have the, um, the, uh, appetite is the word? 

Reema: Yeah, the appetite.

Hana: Uh, yeah, I’m not sure if this is like a psychological thing or like a physical thing because my stomach, you know, got ruined by canned food. I’m not sure. Like I lost a lot of weight in Gaza,  but I was like, okay, yeah, when I go to Cairo, I will gain, put on some weight again, but I’m losing even more weight. 

Reema: Oh wow.

Hana: So yeah it’s super weird to me.

Reema: mm hmm. Well, yeah, I just can’t imagine. It’s probably so jarring being in Cairo.

Hana: Yeah.

Reema: And so what is your immigration status in Egypt? 

Hana: Oh yeah that’s the most difficult part about it: we’re here as tourists, of course, and, uh, just on like tourist visa, short tourist visa. And then it got extended for about one month and that’s it.

Reema: Oh. 

Hana: That’s all we got. And then we’re here with no legal status. And that’s what really makes it very complicated. We don’t have any kind of paper or residency or any kind of legal status that allow us to do anything at all. We’re not allowed to go to embassies, to like open bank accounts. We’re not allowed to do anything basically because we’re just foreigners. 


Reema Khrais: When Hana and her husband first arrived in Cairo, she says they didn’t really have any guidance. So they checked into a hotel and stayed there for a bit. It was pricey, but they didn’t know what else to do. Eventually, they found a two-bedroom apartment in a nice, safe neighborhood with lots of restaurants and shops. Their rent is more than triple what they used to pay in Gaza.

When I last talked with Hana, back in February, she was working for a humanitarian organization. But since then, she’d been applying to new jobs and got an offer with another non-profit doing similar work. Her employer is based outside of Gaza… they allow her to work remotely. 

And while she can’t open an Egyptian bank account, she still has access to her credit card and her Palestinian bank account.  


Reema: So right now, do you have enough money to comfortably spend on shelter and food? 

Hana: Well comparing people who flee-ed here, like who came here, to Cairo with no job, I am okay. 

Reema: Yeah

Hana: I am okay… but also the issue is that it’s not like we can save or we can like live a luxurious life. But we need to save money because we don’t know what the future looks like, you know, like we don’t really have any clue about what or what we would be doing, how, where, like literally nothing. It feels like you’re just in the middle of the sea, in the dark, like really knowing nothing around you. Like you’re sailing somewhere without a specific destination, without a map, without a compass, like you’re just going nowhere. So we really need to be careful with money actually

Reema: Have you been spending money on, like, new clothes or things just to, you know restock your old stuff? 

Hana: Yeah yeah, we had nothing. So like no clothes, like nothing, nothing like you get out just with the outfit you were having on and your passports as if you’re starting from the scratch, like even like a pair of slippers you don’t have like, you know, like, so the simplest things you need to buy to the biggest things, you know, like so it’s it’s it’s a lot. 

Reema: Well yeah I’m curious, have you splurged on anything recently? Um, I don’t know, just on a thing that made you happy? 

Hana: Yeah, so after about one month, I managed to go to one mall, one big mall here in Cairo.  And the thing that I didn’t actually wear, since seven months was perfume. 

Reema: mmm

Hana: And I adore perfume. It just feels normal. They really make me feel normal. Like, you know, just a normal nice day after you have a shower. It’s like, you know, so I went there to one place and I tried one perfume and I just put it on my hand.

And I felt it’s too expensive to be honest, so I didn’t buy it. But then after some time I smelt my hand  and I started crying, and I was really embarrassed in the moment, but I just remember it was suddenly like, it was like my first time after seven months to smell perfume.  And I just felt the old me. 

Reema: yeah

Hana: You know, like, like just for a moment, I, it seems like I, I forgot about all of these stuff for over the seven months. So like, you know, we just had to live this harsh life or we just, you know, we’re after food and clean water and you just, you know, you go to, to the basics and, and we almost forget about this, like totally forget about this, and I actually went back and I bought it.

Reema: Good 

Hana: but it was too expensive to me, but I went back and I bought it. It was like, it just, it just made me feel like a bit like the old Hana, you know, like 

Reema: yeah! 

Hana: I thought it would help.

Reema: Of course. Ugh, that’s making me teary eyed listening to that do you feel like do you feel like you have a lot of those moments? In Cairo, where…

Hana: In Cairo?

Reema: Yeah, where you just have these out of body experiences and it pulls you back to either a time in Gaza or, you know, during the war? 

Hana: Yeah, I actually, you know, like, I decide to  have moments. I try to force myself,  it’s not always successful, but to also go and just live the, like day by day, like try to be just here and now, because it will just help me survive. But the issue is you just can’t live the whole moment without being interrupted by either feelings of being scared or worried or feeling guilty. And if you’re just, you know, You know, just suddenly remember that your sisters and your family cannot enjoy this little moment that you have so it can’t, it’s like the moment you just feel it, it just a little bit and it gets interrupted, you know what I mean

Reema: Yeah. You can’t ever fully be present.

Hana: No at all… It’s like we’re physically out, we survived physically, but, but we’re not actually out, you know, like, part of us is still there, we’re just, our bodies are here…

Reema: That makes sense. 


After the break, the steep price Hana paid to leave Gaza.




Reema Khrais: Since last October, Palestinians in Gaza have been largely trapped, only able to leave through its southern border with Egypt. But as of this recording, that crossing is closed. Israel closed it last month after it launched a military offensive in southern Gaza and took control of the border post. 

But even before the crossing closed, Palestinians could only evacuate Gaza if they had a foreign passport or a medical referral…or if they paid a lot of money to an Egyptian travel company to cross into Egypt. There aren’t any official numbers on what these Egyptian brokers charge, but there are multiple reports of it costing anywhere from 5 to 10-thousand dollars per person. Most families can’t afford that….even before last October, about two-thirds of people in Gaza lived in poverty.

A few months ago, when the border crossing was still open, Hana and her husband spent a good portion of their savings, a total of 10-thousand dollars, to leave Gaza. But they didn’t have enough to evacuate the rest of their family. There was no right decision. 


Hana: Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually get them out with us. So it wasn’t easy for them and it wasn’t easy for them and it wasn’t easy for us, but thinking of it also….sighs…it was like…yeah…

Reema: yea…

Hana: I don’t know how to describe it, sorry…

Reema: I guess like yeah,….what do you make of that? What do you make of the fact that the main way to leave Gaza right now is by paying money? When I think about it, I’m like…it’s just so brutal that your safety comes down to a single financial transaction. 

Hana: Yeah like no one will ever tell you like, this is right, even if you’re talking to a six-year-old kid, it’s just, it doesn’t, it just doesn’t make sense, like, like to have a price tag over your safety. No one should actually live this feeling that…like if, if you can’t afford getting out, then you don’t deserve to, to survive this.

I, honestly, I avoid thinking of it, because you will just feel this rage and anger because it just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t think of the amount of money as in like there as in its actual value. I like how much you can also do with this. I just think of it because this is the only option. Because if you think of it in a, in a more like logical way you will just lose your mind. If no one is able to stop this madness, at least people should be given the option to leave if they want.

Reema: Well I know this is probably hard to think about, but what was that moment like when you said goodbye to your mom and your sister?

Hana: I was numb actually…I,  I don’t know, it really felt as if the time and everything around was frozen. Like even now I’m talking to you and I’m just, I get these goosebumps, like it’s um I, I think I still didn’t process like this whole moment.

Reema: Yeah.

Hana: The only thing I was thinking of was, I do hope that by taking this step, it would just, contribute to a better future for everyone, like including myself and my family and everyone I know.

All of us being under the bombs, like, together, I’m not doing them any favor if I’m staying there with them. All of these, all of these thoughts were in my mind the moment I was saying goodbye to them as if I was just trying to maybe justify to myself, not to feel the guilt. Like even my niece, she once was like, “oh yeah, you will start eating good food. You should take pictures and send to us.” And I like stopped for a moment and I,  I didn’t know, like, I,  I, I couldn’t just imagine how this will feel. And now we’re here and it’s happening and it’s not easy.

Reema: Yeah the last time we talked, you were really nervous because Israel was planning a ground invasion of Rafah, which was considered the last refuge in Gaza. It’s where you and more than 1.4 million Palestinians were sheltering after being ordered to evacuate from your homes. Israel is now more than a month into its invasion of Rafah, and already hundreds of thousands of people have been driven out of the city. How has it been watching this news unfold from Cairo?

Hana: yeah. um, it, it was actually like the, the thing that I was concerned about the most when I was in Gaza. And,  uh, oh sorry, I’m getting emotional.

Reema: I know. 

Hana: like really that day, I felt super down. I couldn’t get out of bed because I was, I couldn’t work like my, even my body, like my whole hand was, I was not able to move it. So it was really difficult. I was really, really helpless, like it’s, it’s too much to process like my mind was not even able to process. Now you will imagine that every piece of news you hear would be them, you know, like anything happens in Rafah may be them. You might just hear their news or read their names. So it’s just like you way go, you you go way, way like the worst case scenario. So it was. It was horrible. It was really, and I’m still now, I mean, I’m, I’m talking to them. I don’t know what to advise them. 

Reema: So where are they now? 

Hana: They’re still in Rafah because they are planning to go to Khan Yunis, that’s the only…

Reema: Which is a little bit north of Rafah. 

Hana: Yeah. Yes, they may either  set up some tents if they find any, or they will go to, uh, my auntie’s house, but it’s partially damaged, so I don’t know how they will manage this.

Reema: Yeah. Well, you scoffed when you said if they find tents, it’s hard to find tents right now.

Hana: It is, it is very hard. And, and, and you know, the Rafah crossing is now closed and nothing is really allowed to enter. Uh, I mean, in terms of humanitarian aid and food, anything. So everything is back again to be super expensive and very minimal stuff they can find. Honestly, I just can’t think of it. I can’t process. Yeah 


Reema Khrais: Since we recorded this interview, Hana told me her family left Rafah, they fled north to Khan Yunis to her aunt’s apartment, which is small and crowded – and partially damaged from an airstrike. Hana says she’s saving every penny she has to help get them out, once the border crossing reopens.


Reema: I know you’re facing so much uncertainty, so it feels impossible to answer this, but what options are you weighing in terms of what you might do next or what options even feel available to you right now? 

Hana: So my priority right now is honestly to find a new place, at least a temporary, temporarily, for the next, I don’t know, maybe, um, 10 years or so, uh, until we’re able to go back to Gaza, at least to have a place, a new place to call home where we have just the basic rights, like some legal papers, some legal status, a place just to deal with us like, you know, normal human beings. And I maybe told you this or maybe you’re aware, I wasn’t, it’s not easy for me as a person to ask people for stuff. Like to ask for help.

Reema: Mm hmm. 

Hana: That’s something that I’m struggling with, to be honest. But since I came here, I was just reaching out to everyone I know, almost everyone outside Gaza. I just tried to find out ways, like, please, just if you know any other way…that will, provide me with a visa to Europe, to Canada, to U.S. to anywhere, basically, anywhere decent place where I can go and stay for some time, me and my husband. 

I keep imagining, you know, just a warm house. Just like my old house, with some candles, and music, and I also envision at some point having a kid. I really would like to have a kid at some point. You know, just some normal life….

Reema: Yeah I know, I know 

Hana: This is what I can think of…

Reema: I guess before I let you go, is there anything else that you want to share with listeners? 

Hana: Not really.

Reema: Yeah. Yeah.

Hana: I can’t think of anything. Thank you very much for listening to this **laughs* and asking for an update… It feels really good to know that people would like to know

Reema: Yeah. I know people have reached out. They’re like, how’s Hana doing? We want to hear her.  

Hana: Oh, I mean, this is really touching. It’s really, it was, it meant a lot to me when you told me. So I was like, Oh wow, people are asking, they want an update. So it was like, “Oh wow, I feel famous.”

Reema: Yeah, no, people care about you.

Hana: It was very warm. Yeah, it was very nice. I do hope we have another update some point at some point. I will ask for this next time, more positive than this *laughs* 


Reema Khrais: We hope to stay in touch with Hana and share more updates with you all as she figures out what might be next for her and her family. If you want to follow Hana on social media, you can find her on Instagram. Her handle is Hana underscore with love

If you have any thoughts about this story, or just wanna shoot us a note, you can always email  me and the team at

Also we wanted to share this update with you all since it’s timely, but we’re actually off working on our new season – season 10 – which will launch in August.

Otherwise, you can stay in touch with us through our newsletter. You might’ve heard that we’re doing a summer book club, where we’re recommending books about money and class and interviewing some of our favorite authors. If you’re not already signed up for that, you can do it over at /comfort. 


This episode was produced by Hannah Harris Green and me, Reema Khrais. 

The episode got additional support from producer Alice Wilder and our intern Marika Proctor. 

Zoë Saunders is our senior producer.

This episode was edited by Jasmine Romero

Sound design and audio engineering by Drew Jostad.

Bridget Bodnar is Marketplace’s Director of Podcasts

Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital.

Neal Scarborough is Vice President and general manager of Marketplace.

And our theme music is by Wonderly.

Alright we’ll catch you all soon. 


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