Nigerian soldier and Egyptian policeman among hundreds of Dubai taxi driver applicants

Recruitment drive attracts huge demand from young men looking for work

Candidates queue to apply for the jobs as taxi drivers, during the RTA's recruitment day at the Privilege Labour Recruitment Office, in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

What do an Egyptian policeman, Nigerian soldier and Filipino call-centre operator have in common?

All three were among hundreds hoping to be selected under the latest round of Dubai taxi driver recruitment at an open day in Abu Hail on Friday.

Each had a different story to tell as to why they queued for hours to take on a new job behind the wheel in one of the thousands of Dubai Taxi Corporation vehicles operating in the city.

Driving on the road in Dubai does not compare to Egypt, it is much safer here
Mohamed Breakaa, Dubai taxi applicant

Dubai Roads and Transport Authority recruiters hosted walk-in interviews for applicants, and there was no shortage of interest in driving positions for a monthly salary of up to Dh5,000.

One of those hoping to be employed was Dauda Rasheed, 31, from Nigeria.

The former soldier was a helicopter gunner with the Nigerian army and fought against Boko Haram insurgents in Sudan.

He was lucky to survive a bullet wound in the face, before retiring from the military and heading to Dubai to work as a security guard at the Mall of the Emirates four years ago.

“I was in the military for five years. It is how I was injured by a stray bullet in 2015,” Mr Rasheed told The National.

“I was an anti-aircraft gunner, so working in Dubai has been very different.

“With the skills and knowledge I have, I should be using these but this is the best job for me now.

“My salary as a security guard was around Dh2,000, so driving a taxi pays much better and there are more advantages ― as long as I don’t get fined that is.”

Due to the imminent expiry of his visa, Mr Rasheed was hoping a government position as a taxi driver would allow him to remain in the UAE to work so he can send his salary home to support his wife and two children, aged 8 and 3.

Citizens of certain African countries have had a difficult time obtaining visas in the UAE, he said.

"Thursday was my last day [under the visa] so I thought I would try my best for this interview,” said Mr Rasheed, as he waited to be interviewed, dressed smartly in a black suit and tie.

“If I get a visa direct from the government I will be able to stay so I can support my family back home.”

Although driving jobs were open to both genders, young men overwhelmingly dominated the lines of applicants hoping to be selected and secure a steady job working 12-hour shifts, with free accommodation and health insurance.

Another man hoping for a job was Egyptian Mohamed Breakaa, 28, who travelled from Cairo on a tourist visa in the hope of finding work in Dubai.

If selected, the former policeman's salary as a Dubai taxi driver would amount to ten times what he would earn in the same role in his home city.

“I came here looking for work on March 1,” said Mr Breakaa, who is single.

"I looked at a security job because of my background in policing but I was told I needed a certificate to become a security supervisor here.

“I have good communication skills and can work easily with different cultures.

“The job is to give tourists the best experience, communicate well with them and keep them safe.”

Adverts called on applicants to be hard working and prepared to work long shifts in the day or night.

Pre-requisites included a high school or secondary diploma, valid UAE driving licence, good eyesight, good communication skills, valid visa and fluency in English.

Mr Breakaa said the roads were easier to navigate in Dubai than Cairo.

“Driving on the road in Dubai does not compare to Egypt, it is much safer here,” he said.

“There are highway rules in Egypt, but only in the cities and people do not always stick to them.

“My brother is in the US and this is a new life for me.”

Taxis in demand

It has been a busy time for taxi drivers in Dubai, with Fifa World Cup visitors and a bumper winter tourism season making it one of the busiest periods in recent years.

The industry is on the cusp of change, with more electric and driverless vehicles added to the DTC fleet and restrictions on street-side hailing coming into force in some areas, forcing people to pre-book rides online.

Sunnie Banquite, 36, from the Philippines recently lost his call-centre sales job with an American company in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

“My company closed so I had to look for new work and I’m not afraid to try new things,” said Mr Banquite, who was hoping to be thrown an employment lifeline by the RTA.

“I drive my own car in Dubai so I know the roads well and this kind of job will be a nice change.

“I enjoy the roads, to see beautiful places and meet new people.

“I am interested in what the life of a taxi driver is and want to feed that curiosity.”

Updated: April 01, 2023, 4:00 AM