Dubai: When he's not flying a chopper, Abed Al-Belooshi doubles up as Uber driver. Through this spare-time, Al-Belooshi hopes to serve his nation well — as a cultural ambassador behind the wheel.
He is ready to share with his passengers about the rich heritage and culture of his people.
Al-Belooshi, who drives a 2017 four-door Mini Cooper S for Uber, said his move follows the UAE leaders' vision to encourage young Emiratis to promote the country.
“There is no shame in driving a minicab. I am proud that I can serve my nation in the best possible way,” said Abed Al-Belooshi, the first Emirati national to sign up as an Uber driver in the UAE.
Belooshi, a 27-year-old professional helicopter pilot, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview that his Uber stint, done during his spare time, gives him a chance to interact with people of different walks of life and promote Emirati culture.
“There is a steady influx of visitors to the UAE. Unfortunately, many of them do not get the chance to meet the local population, interact with them and get to know their culture.
"When I was given a chance to drive for the app-based firm in Abu Dhabi, I jumped at the idea. It was a great way for me to promote my culture with my passengers.”
Take this: According to statistics from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism, the number of tourists visiting the capital and emirate of Dubai increased by 1.6 per cent during the first eight months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.
At the end of July 2018, more than two million people visited Abu Dhabi, marking a five percent increase in comparison to 2017. The report also noted an increase in the country’s tourism sector, room occupancy and general occupancy rates which all increased by 4.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, from January to August 2018.
“At first when I used to take my car out, people could not believe I was an Uber driver. My passengers would come up to me, before entering the car and ask me again if I was indeed the driver. When I would say 'Yes', their reply would be: 'But you are an Emirati right? You are riding a minicab?'”
“It was quite funny. For the record, I am not driving Uber for the money. I like that this is a way to promote the vision of our leaders.
"I hope more Emiratis like me join the fray, especially students who would like to do this in their spare time as they are the face of the new generation and the new ‘UAE’.
"Our visitors need to understand Emirati culture and for that we need to have our presence in the country a lot more,” said Belooshi who is one of 10 children of his parents.
A petition calling for Erewash cabbies to be allowed to have fully-tinted windows in their taxis has been rejected over fears that vehicles could be used to enable the abuse of vulnerable children and adults.