The village was on the eastern periphery of the coastal sand dunes that ran parallel to the Mediterranean. The village center was situated on a relatively flat spot, but some village buildings were near dunes on uneven ground. Sand encroachment presented a serious problem until the 1940s, when the inhabitants were able to stabilize the dunes by building houses and planting trees in the appropriate places. Barbara was located immediately to the west of the coastal highway and the railway line and so had access to the urban centers both north and south; secondary roads linked it to adjacent villages. A village with the same name (Barbara) appears to have existed on this site during the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Arab geographer Mujir aI-Din al-Hanbali (d. ca. 1522) said that the village was the hometown of al-Shaykh Yusuf al-Barbarawi, a local sage and a student of renowned Muslim scholar Ahmad ibn Dawud who died in 1323. In 1596, Barbara was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza), with a population of 402.
In the late nineteenth century, the village of Barbara was rectangular in shape and surrounded by gardens and two ponds. The sand encroaching from the coast was stopped by the cactus hedges of the gardens. Olive groves were found in the east. Barbara's adobe brick houses were separated by sandy streets. Its population was Muslim, and worshipped in an old mosque at the village center. This mosque was established during the reign of the Ottoman sultan Murad III (1574–1596); it contained the tomb of the above-mentioned al-Shaykh Yusuf al-Barbarawi. In addition to the mosque, the village center contained a number of shops and an elementary school—founded in 1921―in which 252 students were enrolled in 1947.
Agricultural land ringed the village on all sides. Grapes, the chief crop and considered some of the best in Palestine, were sold in numerous coastal towns and villages. In addition, people cultivated almonds, figs, olives, oranges, guavas, watermelons, cantaloupes, and grain. The fruit trees were concentrated on the west side of the village and grain on the east. In 1944/45 a total of 132 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 9,613 dunums were allocated to cereals; 2,952 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Agriculture was primarily rainfed. A few wells with depths of 35–40 m were drilled to irrigate the orange groves and vegetable fields. Barbara was also known for its long rugs, al-mazawid, which were woven by women.
Barbara had been the scene of skirmishes since the early weeks of the war. In the first half of January 1948, a Jewish bus passing through the village opened fire on villagers, without causing any casualties. On 12 January at 7:00 a.m., according to a report in the Palestinian newspaper Filastin, the village was sprayed with gunfire and several windows were broken in the (empty) village school. Another attack, which took place in April 1948, was recorded by Tariq al-Ifriqi, the Sudanese commander of the irregular Arab forces in the Gaza area. As villagers ploughed their fields on 10 April, they were fired at by members of a nearby Jewish settlement; one villager was wounded. The village militia returned the fire and a two-hour-long battle ensued. No casualties were reported among the villagers, who said that Jewish forces were seen carrying their dead and wounded as they withdrew.
Two settlements were built on village lands. Mavqi'im was established on 12 January 1949, just south of the village, for the purpose of preventing the villagers' return. Talmey Yafe, established in 1950, is southeast of the site. Ge'a, built in the same year, is northeast of the site and is close to, but not on, village lands; it was built on the lands of the neighboring al-Jiyya.
The crumbled walls and debris of houses are all that remains of the village buildings. The debris is overgrown with thorns and brush. Old eucalyptus and sycamore trees and cactuses also grow on the site. Some of the old streets are clearly identifiable. One area of the site serves as a garbage dump and a junkyard for old cars. The surrounding lands are planted by Israeli farmers in corn.