If you can’t pay for the food, take it for free’

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as free lunch. But at a restaurant in Salmiya, lunch is free and so too is dinner for those who can’t afford it. Wadi Rum, a small restaurant that opened four years ago near Marina Mall, offers charity in the way of meals for free for people in need. Customers entering the restaurant see a very unusual sign, which reads in Arabic: ‘If you can’t pay for the food, take it for free’.

“Since the restaurant opened on November 3, 2012, the owner Jalal Bader decided to offer this option as charity. We know there are poor people who are not able to afford a meal every day, so he decided to let them enjoy the food even if they are not able to pay for it,” Renald, manager of Wadi Rum, told Kuwait Times.

Around 10 people benefit from this daily. “There are regulars who come daily to take their meal, and some even come twice a day – for lunch and dinner. Others are first-timers, usually laborers or cleaners who work nearby. Some of them take meals with them for their needy friends who couldn’t come with them,” he explained.

It seems the offer of free food is hard to resist. Even those who clearly aren’t destitute take advantage of the charity. “Many a time, we have people asking for free food although they seem to be in a good financial situation, with expensive mobiles or watches. But the owner has told us to give them the food if they claim they can’t pay. Also, children and youngsters come daily, and some think it’s a joke, but we also give them free food,” explained Renald. The sign for free food elicits another type of response too. “Some customers who see the sign and the poor people taking the food offer to give us donations as a way to support us in what we do, but we don’t accept any charity,” he added.

Wadi Rum is open from noon until 2am. “We offer a limited selection of food. We have chicken and meat shawarma and mansaf, which is a Jordanian meal consisting of rice and lamb served with a special kind of yogurt. The majority of those who take the free meal choose mansaf, as many of them are Jordanian and Arab nationals,” Renald pointed out.

The restaurant’s shawarma cones are of a very large size, which is unique. “The huge size of our shawarma cone attracts people to come and take photos of it. We usually make two cones of chicken and one of meat daily. If anything remains at the end of the day, we distribute it to workers near Marina Mall,” he said.

There’s another saying that what goes around comes around, and Renald believes this good act brings success to the business. “I came to Kuwait nine years ago and worked in various restaurants, but this is the place where I have stayed the longest, as I’m satisfied here. This restaurant has been operating for more than four years now very successfully, while the previous restaurants kept going bust in short periods. I assume it’s from giving,” he concluded.

By Nawara Fattahova

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