“They [customers] keep calling and ask where are you? Where are you? Okay I am also fasting in Ramadan Kareem, why like this? Why you scream to me?”
As families across Doha anticipate breaking off their fast during iftar, an army of unsung heroes work tirelessly on the frontlines, ensuring that everyone’s food is delivered on time, except their own.
With the increased demand for food delivery before the Maghrib call to prayer, these drivers navigate the busy streets of Doha, often putting their own hunger and thirst aside to fulfil the endless orders pouring in.
Doha News spoke to several drivers, who shared their experiences of breaking their fast on the go, dealing with impatient customers, how they’d like their companies to support them, and the moments of compassion that make their sacrifices worthwhile.
Iftar on the road
Many drivers find themselves breaking their fast on the road, as their job often means that they must delay their own iftar. To some, that meal would be a quick bite of a date and a sip of water in between deliveries, while others buy food from nearby spots that they can afford.
Asadi Wera, a Ugandan driver working for talabat, usually like to eat chicken biryani. “I just really like biryani, it has my two favourite things; rice and chicken.”
He often buys it from nearby restaurants, “especially in areas which have cheap food, cause I can’t afford everywhere that makes biryani, I have a minimum amount of budget for food.”
Wera told Doha News that some people give Iftar to riders after they complete their delivery.
“Families giving Iftar to riders is not very common, but it depends on the area, not all areas have families with people who give out food.”
Other riders shared how at times, some families invite them inside their majlis to eat. It’s not uncommon for customers to invite the driver to join them for iftar.
“They ask if I’m muslim, then say: brother you come inside and eat,” Abdul, a Pakistani driver said.
He told Doha News that this makes him happy, and makes the month he once spent between family back home less lonely, serving as a reminder of the true essence of Ramadan, where compassion and empathy reign supreme.
However, drivers cannot rely solely on that.
“It’s not everyone who does that, you know, giving out food. You cannot expect to be given some food every day, you know. It’s just one out of a hundred who will give you,” added Abdul.
Drivers explained to Doha News that pressure in the holy month does not mostly come from their companies, but rather from impatient customers at all times of the day.
Constant calls from customers asking for the whereabouts of their orders can add stress to an already challenging job, and even lead to road fatalities.
“Customers call Talabat to complain about us being slow, when I’m already on the road, and I’m hungry and thirsty,” said Abdul.
He, among other riders, often tries not to drive too fast because he’s fasting and it’s hot. However, when he does not speed through the streets, customers just cancel their orders with one tap.
“When I do that they cancel their order and its too much problem for us.”
Drivers told Doha News that they have weekly performance numbers, and showed us on their rider application how one cancelled order impacted their rating.
“They keep calling and ask where are you? Where are you? Okay I am also fasting in Ramadan Kareem, why like this? Why you scream to me?”
Yesterday, Abdul was about to miss Maghrib prayer time, so he stopped by the side of the road to perform his prayer. The customer, who can track the whereabouts of the driver, called him angrily before cancelling the order.
“Customer call and ask me why you stop? Then tell me to deliver first then pray, I tell them I just need 5 minutes to pray, they cancel order. My performance too much damaged but no problem, I always choose my Iman first.”
“Tipping us helps a lot”
To Wera, tips from customers are a significant source of motivation and encouragement for him and his fellow drivers.
“Tipping us helps a lot, it doesn’t matter if it’s one or twenty riyals, as long as it’s a tip it can help the process of fasting, as even a bottle of water costs 1 riyal, which is maybe small to you, but to us it’s very big.”
“The greatest charity you can give is just water.”
Once, Wera recounted what he said was one of the best days of his life; when he received a 500 riyal tip. “I did not believe it, he said it’s okay, buy yourself anything you want its for you. I pray for him and his family every night.”
What do they want delivery companies to do for them?
Many muslim drivers struggle with balancing their working hours and time to eat, with little to no time to go home and make a meal.
“If you have to spend some money, maybe like 20- 30 QAR every day to buy some food for you to eat it’s too much for us,” Fahad, a Kenyan driver, explained to Doha News. “It could be much better if they just provide us with some food, that’s all we want.”
“Sometimes you don’t have time to cook and you are very tired. You just have to buy because you don’t want to waste a lot of time cooking and you have to come back to work soon.”
Wera explained how last year his company, talabat, prepared coupons from teatime for riders to have their Iftar there, at any time, place or branch. “It was amazing for us. I hope they can do that again this Ramadan.”
“They also gave every driver an additional 1.50 QAR for every delivery they made so by the end of the month the salary was very amazing to see the money,” he added.
What are delivery companies doing to address this?
In a statement, a talabat spokesperson told Doha News that rider wellbeing is key to their success in the country.
“Rider wellbeing is key to talabat’s success in Qatar, and during the holy month of Ramadan we run a number of initiatives to show our gratitude for all that riders do, and use this blessed occasion to voice this appreciation.
This includes also reminding customers to plan ahead their orders, and expect some delays close to iftar time, allowing riders to break their fast and deliver order safely.”
The company also stated that it will continue to provide drivers with food coupons, alongside other initiatives, which include complimentary Iftars on wheels for riders, flexible scheduling options to accommodate riders’ religious practices, Eidiya awards to recognise top performing riders, and a dedicated rider suhoor event.