An Emirati driver Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: When Abdullah Al Ameri went to pick up his first customer, he was dressed in a kandoora and the traditional Emirati headdress, and seated behind the wheel of a Nissan Patrol.

“It was an Afghani family, and they couldn’t believe I was their captain. Incidentally, it was also their first trip through Careem, and I can say we all learnt a bit more about each other’s countries during the drive from Reem Island to Sharjah,” said Al Ameri.

He is one of 14-young Emirati men who are now licensed to offer rides to commuters in Abu Dhabi as ‘captains’ for the UAE-based ride-sharing service, Careem.

They are part of an initiative by the company to include Emirati drivers in its operations.

For commuters, the major draw is that they can avail of a luxury ride at rates similar to public taxis in the emirate, including a minimum trip fare of Dh12.

“In order to offer more visibility to this initiative, we have introduced a new car type called Go Emirati. Users who opt for this type will be assigned an Emirati captain,” said Geed Al Makkaoui, general manager at Careem UAE, at a press conference on Thursday.

Eight of the Emirati drivers have already taken to the roads through Careem since February 7, and between them, they drive Nissan Patrols, Range Rovers and Cadillac Escalades.

“This is a major step towards supporting the transport sector in Abu Dhabi while offering new job opportunities for Emiratis, who will now benefit from earning an income and serving their community at the same time. Captains also have a big responsibility to represent our society, and we are proud of them,” said Mohammad Al Qamzi, general manager at the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport’s Integrated Transport Centre (ITC).

Abdullah Al Ameri

Abdullah Al Ameri Image Credit: Supplied

“The first thing people ask me when they see me behind the wheel is why I want to be a driver. But it isn’t about the money for me. I want to be in the car with people. I want to show them that we are an open-minded society,” said the 28-year-old who works as a project manager with a company.

Al Ameri was one of the first Emiratis to register on Careem’s Go Careem programme, and he has already spent more than 10 hours as a Careem captain. His first trip was a long-haul trip to Sharjah.

Ahmad Al Mansouri

Ahmad Al Mansouri Image Credit: Supplied

“I have learnt during my own travels that a country’s citizens are the best source of information, and this is what I want to be as I offer rides,” said the 30-year-old business development executive.

“I have always loved to travel, and a few years ago, I came up scarce when looking for information about the Polish city of Warsaw. So I turned to the taxi drivers there, and I was able to experience the European city to its fullest. This is what I want to give visitors to Abu Dhabi,” added the Emirati father-of-three.

Abdul Aziz Al Harithi and Mohsin Al Harithi

Abdulaziz Al Harithi and Mohsin Al Harithi Image Credit: Supplied

“We haven’t told our families we’ve signed up as drivers yet, but we know this whole experience is going to be exciting,” said Mohsin Al Harithi, a 29-year-old police official who signed up for Go Careem along with his 31-year-old brother, Abdul Aziz.

Serving as drivers for Careem will not be their primary job, but the brothers want to portray the unknown side of Emirati society.

“There are many events nowadays that bring people to the emirates. They should know that we are just like everyone else. Not everyone has an easy job, and most of us are hard workers,” Al Harithi said.

Saeed Al Zubaidi

Saeed Al Zubaidi Image Credit: Supplied

“There is so much to see in Abu Dhabi, be it the islands or the heritage sites. My passenger simply has to tell me what he likes, and I have a list of places I can take him,” said the 27-year-old real estate analyst.

The father-of-two has not yet begun offering rides, but is raring to offer commuters a local experience.

“My permit has just been prepared, and truth be told, I too am waiting to see what the experience will be like,” he said.