Jul 15 2021 - 08:41
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For one Lebanese taxi driver, life is as bitter as his Arabic coffee

Zakaria Ghalayeeni has driven a taxi around Beirut since he was 18-years-old Lebanon, news ,lbci ,أخبار Crisis, Taxi,Lebanon,Zakaria Ghalayeeni has driven a taxi around Beirut since he was 18-years-old
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For one Lebanese taxi driver, life is as bitter as his Arabic coffee
Lebanon News

Zakaria Ghalayeeni has driven a taxi around Beirut since he was 18-years-old and at 76 he is still driving to earn a meagre living through what he says are Lebanon's darkest times.

"We do not deserve this humiliation at fuel stations," Ghalayeeni said as he joined a queue for gasoline that was likely to stretch for hours.

Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis. Its currency has lost more than 90% of its value in almost two years and more than half of the population has been propelled into poverty.

Shortages of basic supplies like fuel mean motorists queue for hours to get barely any petrol at the end of their long wait, something which makes Ghalayeeni's life a daily struggle.

Ghalayeeni leaves his house at 7:30 a.m. and drives around most of the day.

When he first started out as a teenager, a taxi ride was worth 1 pound. But even though a ride now is around 10,000 pounds, he only earns between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds a day.

Before the crisis that translated into almost $70 but it is less than $5 at the current street rate.

"The taxi does not give you any benefits, you can only secure food out of it and maintenance (for the car), not more than that, you can't save any money," he said.

As he waits in Beirut's central Martyrs' Square for any client to call him, Ghalayeeni ponders the quiet in an area which was once buzzing with life.

"It was very crowded, now there is no one, no taxis, no one, it is empty," he said.

But regardless of the endless lines for gasoline and the shortage of customers, he carries on - he has no alternative income.

His only companion as he waits is a picture of his late wife, who died five years ago, that he keeps on his dashboard.

In keeping with an Arab custom observed at funerals and other testing times, he has stopped taking sugar in his daily coffee.

"The coffee stays bitter, like this life, as much as you add sugar to it, it will stay bitter," he said.

 
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REUTERS
 
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