McDonald’s and its Guantanamo Bay Restaurant

Guantanamo Bay and a McDonald's
“Barbed wire in your Big Mac, sir?”

We’ve been writing a lot about fast food recently (involving, mainly, chicken brains and horse meat, but also McDonald’s, although this has mainly been in our day job which we shan’t bore you with) and, during a search for information, we came across a tasty morsel of preservative infused drama.

But, what ho, there’s only ONE McDonald’s in Cuba. Guess where it is? Yeah… Guantanamo Bay, how did you know?

Prescience aside, this picture showcases the world’s most bizarre McDonald’s in action, replete with barbed wire fencing and (no doubt) panic room and snipers on the roof.

Where things start to get weirder is here—it’s not open to “ordinary” Cubans. Only the American Naval community at the controversial Bay can eat there.

Don’t go thinking this is a contemporary edition, either, as the fast food restaurant has been there since 1986! Recently a KFC and Pizza Hut joined the jolly community. So what other weird facts are there about this fast food store? Read on, Macduff!

McDonald’s In Action at Guantanamo Bay

Well, for a start, this rather individualistic McDonald’s opened a mere two days before the catastrophic Chernobyl Disaster (26th April 1986)!

There’s nothing like forgetting about radiation and bad news with a good old helping of artery-clogging french fries (sorry, Freedom Fries) and burgers!

Actually the only other information we could find on this Cuban store regarded several news articles from 2009 which indicated McDonald’s were hiring staff for the Guantanamo Bay branch.

6,000 folk live on the island (sailors, guards, and their families, mainly) and despite President Obama’s initial suggestions the Bay would be closed (made in 2008) it’s likely the base is here to stay. Huzzah for Ronald McDonald!

So Mr. Wapojif got to searching for more weird McDonald’s locations. Unsurprisingly there’s also only one in Iraq. Care to guess where it’s located? Wrong, it’s in Baghdad and is there for the U.S. Army.

There’s also a spinoff called MaDonal which is in the town of Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

It’s owned by Suleiman Qassab (a Kurdish resistance fighter during the ‘70s) who applied for a permit to McDonald’s management to make a McDonald’s in Iraq. The firm turned him down, so he made his own version.

McDonald's at Guantanamo bay
MaDonal. Probably inspired by KFC.

The idea is it’s SUPPOSED to resemble McDonald’s. He actually plans to turn it into a real one.

He was a chef for McDonald’s during a spell as a refugee in Austria, so he’s VERY fond of the brand.

McDonald’s, although notorious for their brutality in court, are holding back any legal action as they seem keen to steer clear of the whole region in general.

So Qassab is free to run with this overt plagiarism and, over the years, has offered food to American soldiers, been threatened, and has become something of a local celebrity. Weird? Indeed.

Anyway, for comparison on a country-to-McDonald’s ratios here are some facts (stats circa 2012):

  • America currently has around 19,000 McDonald’s in its varying states.
  • Neighbouring Canada has 1,400.
  • England has 1,250 (the first one here was opened in Woolwich, 1974).
  • China also has 1,250.
  • Japan (or Nippon, to dispel the exonym) has some 2,500.
  • Food connoisseurs France have a quietly disturbing 1,200.

Interested in all of this? Check out our review of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (2002) to find out other titbits.

Dispense with some gibberish!

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