Abu Dhabi bakery offers free food to people who can't pay

Palestinian family has been helping low-income customers for years

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A bakery in Abu Dhabi has been giving out free bread and pastries to residents struggling to make ends meet for years.

Al Yousef Bakery and Sweets, a small bakery on a road just off Hamdan Street, has become known among people in the neighbourhood for helping low-income families with their generous offer.

A small sign that reads "free bread if you cannot pay" in Arabic and English is hung on the door of the premises.

I have a philosophy that comes from an Islamic belief that your money will never be affected because of charity

Their initiative was inspired by the good deed of a customer, who offered to pay an extra Dh200 to cover the bills of people who were struggling financially.

The Dh200 has long since run out but the owners of the small bakery continue the tradition of helping others.

“There is nothing better than seeing a person leave the shop smiling and saying a small prayer for you,” said shop manager, Saeed Yousef Mardi.

Mr Mardi, 57, was raised in the UAE. His father immigrated to the Emirates from Palestine in the 1960s, when he opened up a small bakery in Abu Dhabi that has since closed.

Mr Mardi and his wife opened their bakery in 2003. He said they have lived a blessed life and wished to pass on goodwill to others.

“Everything we have comes from the generosity of this country and its rulers. I lived my whole life here and my education was for free and I was even sent abroad to study in the US on a government scholarship,” the father of six said.

“This is the least I could do for a country that has been so generous to me and my family for decades."

He said the number of free loaves handed out had increased since the pandemic, with more people struggling to keep up with costs.

"Around six or seven people come to the shop each day without means to pay," he said.

“If a person comes wanting a cheese pastry and juice and a slice of cake for example and can’t afford any of it or can’t afford the juice for example then we don’t ask them for money."

He said his business had not been affected by the initiative and he trusted that people would not take advantage of the shop policy.

“I have a philosophy that comes from an Islamic belief that your money will never be affected because of charity," said Mr Mardi.

Donations are not accepted at the shop but the bakery plans to continue to offer free food to those who cannot afford it.

“When you’ve seen and received so much good and kindness from the people and rulers of a country, this is the least you would do,” he said.