LONDON: Palestinian restaurant Hiba Express is offering half-price meals to all National Health Service, Transport for London and Metropolitan Police staff in the UK’s capital amid the battle against coronavirus.
“We decided that those who might actually benefit from our services are those soldiers on the front line, the critical workers,” Osama Qashoo, founder of the family-run business, told Arab News.
He said the restaurant group has been converted from a business into a relief committee, offering help and aid to all those in need.
“We go to hospitals, we take our precautions and we distribute (meals). We go outside hospitals and cook for those tired people,” he added. COVID-19 has left more than 100,000 dead worldwide, just under 9,000 of them in the UK.
“We’re from Palestine, where the situation of lockdown and curfew is very familiar. We’ve been under lockdown and siege for many years,” Qashoo said. “My heroes are my team — they’re very noble. We’re all from the Arab world — from Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, Palestine and Jordan,” he added.
“All of us are giving our time for free, most of them are volunteering, we’re taking this very seriously and we’re not taking anything in return.”
One of the dishes that Hiba offers in its deals is maqlouba, which translates to upside-down in Arabic. It is a Levantine dish consisting of meat, rice and vegetables that is served upside down.
“We tell people ‘everything is upside down,’ so just have it for lunch. It’s working and it’s making people laugh. It’s very rewarding and very humbling to be part of this effort to try and help,” Qashoo said.
While other businesses are focusing on minimizing financial losses, Hiba is focusing on its contributions to the community during these extraordinary times, he added.
“It’s very rewarding, and makes you feel alive and part of this community,” he said. “I’m very proud that we’re using our Palestinian experience of hardship to help in London, which I never thought would be in this crazy situation.”