Mahdi Anwer was all smiles as he drove off from the Westin Hotel here. For a change, he wasn’t called to the hotel to pick up a passenger, but an Iftar bag. “It’s the first time I break my fast with a five-star hotel food,” said the taxi driver. “Usually, I stop by a mosque or on the side of the road, depending on my location at Iftar time, to break my fast,” added Anwer.
Thousands of taxi drivers across the UAE got a free Iftar on Tuesday, thanks to Starwood group of hotels. An annual initiative, 34 of the group’s hotels in the Middle East, including most properties in the UAE, offered free fast breaking food. One hour before Iftar, taxi drivers were called to drive pass the Sheraton, Meridien, Royal Meridien, Westin, W, St. Regis, Four Points and Aloft hotels to receive their Iftar packets from the hotel’s managers directly.
Syad Mohammed had just dropped off a passenger in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi’s industrial area, when he received the call about the free Iftar. “I was in Khalifa City when I got the call about the free Iftar, so I drove to the nearest hotel, which was Westin. It is not a big bag, but it is such a nice gesture,” he said.
The Iftar for Cabs initiative was launched in 2010 and has since become an annual tradition throughout the region. Catering teams at each hotel prepared slightly different Iftar packs, which mostly include dates, snacks, sandwiches, cakes and soft drinks.
“Iftar for Cabs says a small thank you to cab drivers throughout the region who continuously work to provide transportation services for our guests and provide them with an essential service when travelling or working in the Middle East,” said Guido de Wilde, senior vice-president and regional director of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Middle East.
On the day, Starwood informed taxi companies in each city about the initiative, which sent an SMS to their taxi drivers. “We had a considerable turnout last year, so this year we prepared nearly 150 Iftar bags,” said Shweta Dhumale, marketing manager at Westin Abu Dhabi. “They contain dates, laban, hummus, bread, cake, date and nut smoothie, fresh fruits and water,” she added.
With Sheraton, Meridien and Royal Meridien being close to one another near Abu Dhabi Corniche, this will be one of the busiest areas in the Capital for taxi drivers, as many went from one hotel to the next.
Sheraton Abu Dhabi is also known to give away one of the most substantial Iftar boxes. “This year we prepared 100 boxes, which contained a selection of dry fruit, Arabic bread, hummus, muttabol, turkey ham, cheese and tomato sandwich, a small fresh salad with herb dressing, a selection of Arabic pastries and for drinks we have water and Ramadan juice,” said Nathalie Zelle, marketing executive at Sheraton Abu Dhabi.(KT)