A 16-seat restaurant in Doha’s Industrial Area has grabbed the attention of media houses worldwide with a simple sign board which reads “If you are hungry and have no money, eat for free !”
Zaiqa restaurant, which is owned by two Indian brothers has been in media limelight ever since they put up the small sign about three weeks ago.
The news spread through Qatar’s social media forums, then through national dailies and now international news agencies like AFP has published reports on it.
“When I saw the board I had tears in my eyes,” said one of the owners, Shadab Khan, 47, who is originally from New Delhi, but has lived in Qatar for 13 years.
Shadab, who is a filmmaker as well as a restaurant owner, said those asking for food were mostly construction workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
He said the idea to offer free food came from his younger brother, Nishab.
Just bread and water
“We realise a lot of people out here do not get paid on time and do not have money, not even money to eat. So there were people who would come here and just buy a packet of bread. And they would eat the bread with water,” says Shadab.
“We realised those people don’t have money for anything else, so we would try to offer them food.” But it was not easy, he said. Many workers refused to take something for nothing, out of self-respect.
As a result, in the three weeks since the free food project started, “the number of people coming here to get free food is like two or three people a day at the most”, he said.
The eatery stands on Street 23, sandwiched between another restaurant and a steel workshop. For those who opt to pay, a fish curry at Zaiqa costs 6 riyals, an egg roast is 3 riyals and a dish of palak paneer is 10 riyals.
For Zaiqa, which serves food 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the future is threatened by a dispute over rent with the property owner and may have to close down.
Shadab and his brother have a different plan for their next restaurant.
“We are putting a refrigerator outside, so this refrigerator won’t have a lock. It will be facing the road and it will have packets of food with dates on them. So anybody who wants to take it doesn’t have to come inside” he said.
In the past, a few other residents had come up with similar noble acts like refrigerators filled with free drinks and a Qatari villa has a tap offering free home-made laban.