Eating out with a twist: Consulate visitors flock to a hawker selling biryani outside the Bangladesh Consulate in Al Wuheida, Deira photos: ATIQ-UR-REHMAN/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: Two of Dubai’s more popular consulates have become fertile ground for illegal hawkers and cabbies, XPRESS has learned.

Small-time hawkers and private cabbies selling goods and services, often on the sly, are raking in hundreds of dirhams, if not thousands, everyday by targeting visitors to the Bangladesh and Philippines consulates in Al Wuheida and Al Ghusais. In most cases the operators go about their business unregulated.

The Bangladesh Consulate has more than 2,000 people at its gates every day on average. Many spend hours there without food due to the lack of cafés and restaurants nearby, but a self-styled caterer seems to be filling the void. “I sell beef biryani for Dh10 per packet. On a good day I have even sold 100 packets. They do go like hot cakes,” he said, refusing to give his name.

Mohammad Abu Salem, who had come to renew his passport and waited four hours, said the lunchbox was ‘God-sent’. “The nearest grocery is a couple of signals away and Dh10 is a small price to pay for readymade hot food,” he said.

The vendor didn’t reveal sales figures but we estimated Dh500-Dh1,000 worth of business per day or Dh10,000 to Dh15,000 per month.

Selling cochintas, a popular rice-based Filipino snack and putos, sweetened rice-cakes for Dh10-Dh15, a ‘temporary’ stall set up inside the Philippines Consulate also runs a ‘monopoly’, not far from the Bangladesh office.

“It really keeps us from starving for hours while waiting in the long queues. All I am bothered about is whether they are edible and prepared in a clean way,” said a 37-year-old Filipina office secretary.

Food isn’t the only viable business at the consulates though. Faridul Islam, who runs a grocery in Ajman, says he makes about Dh30-Dh40 on every trip to Deira or Bur Dubai. The illegal cabbie picks up customers from the gates of the villa on 132/2 Street and Abu Hail Road and does about five trips a day, earning up to Dh200 per day or Dh3,000-Dh4,000 a month on the side.

“I charge the standard rate of Dh5 per passenger to Deira and Dh10 to Bur Dubai,” says the 33-year-old from Dhaka.

Outside the Philippines Consulate 31-year-old S.D. who works as an illegal driver apparently bought a driver’s visa for Dh12,000 from an Emirati two years ago and says he has been doing good business since. “I make anywhere between Dh200 to Dh500 a day. In a ‘good month’, I have even earned up to Dh15,000 dirhams,” said Delapaz, who earned Dh4500 in his last job as a school admin assistant.