Dubai: A Pakistani restaurateur in Dubai is delivering free meals to those struggling to make ends meet due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shahbaz Qureshi, 35, said the staff of all his four restaurants have been busy cooking food and transporting them to the needy since Wednesday when the UAE rolled out its ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ campaign.
“So far we have reached out to over 350 people across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. Most of these were workers or job seekers who had come on visit but are now stuck because of flight suspensions,” said Qureshi, owner of Hazara Group which runs four casual dining restaurants – all located in International City.
Qureshi said they were inundated with calls as soon as word spread out about their free-food initiative.
“The phones at our restaurants — Dolphina, Hazara Darbar, Mawwal and Al Fareej Kitchen haven’t stopped ringing from the time I circulated a message on WhatsApp listing the phone numbers of the eateries alongside an audio note detailing our campaign. We delivered our last order at 2am on Saturday. It was for a group of five unpaid workers in Satwa,” said the self-effacing man, originally from Abbottabad in the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, about 120km north of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
Quantity not variety
The meals comprise chana pulao (chickpeas and rice) and chicken biryani. “The focus is on quantity, not variety,” said Qureshi.
He said their staff practice social distancing while delivering the food and also maintain high hygiene standards to ensure that the meals prepared on-site and transported to people are safe to eat. “As a conscientious restaurateur in Dubai, the notion of cleanliness and sanitation is ingrained in us as is the importance of social distancing,” he said.
Qureshi said they use certain parameters to determine if a caller is indeed needy. “As a thumb rule we respond to only those who can’t afford two square meals a day. “We are largely catering to workers in International City and adjoining areas although we have made exceptions to deliver in places like Rolla, Sharjah and labour camps in Ajman.”
Qureshi said he’s doing all this for the sake of Allah. “Mankind is going through terrible times with countries closing their borders, millions locked inside their homes and the global economy suffering a major blow. We are all in this together and the only way we can fight this pandemic is by showing solidarity and kindness towards the poor and most vulnerable among us,” he said.