Mansour Al-Dharhani: Struggling to Make Ends Meet Amidst Changing Times


Wajdi Al Ahdal – Sana’a – Yemen – The Yemeni American News

 

From Yemen, this month, we bring you a profile of a typical struggling Yemeni youth trying to etch out a living in a world and a climate that brings challenges to the most hardened of individuals.  Mansour Ali Uwadhah Al-Dharhani has managed to provide for his family since his father passed away.  At the same time, Mansour also managed to realize his ambition of achieving a university education, with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management.

 

Mansour was born in 1984 in the City of Sana’a.  Mansour always had several ambitious plans for how his future should be laid out.  But as fate would have it, all those plans had to be shelved.  His father passed away when Mansour had reached the vibrant age of 20 years.  Thus Mansour was heralded into the position of family provider.  The only easily accessible vocation for him then was a minibus driver (7 passengers), which he inherited from his erstwhile industrious father.

A year later, he sold the minibus, which had provided limited income, and purchased a modest 1980 Toyota Cressida, which he turned into a taxi, which did slightly improve his income.  Hence, he felt greater comfort and more important greater freedom, from the drudgery of a limited line for a minibus.  He elaborates:  “Working on a minibus is quite boring:  same kind of faces, same streets and same places; working on your own taxi is more enjoyable, easy and you have a greater choices for the routes one takes.

Working on a taxi has given him the opportunity to discover new neighborhoods and streets in his beloved City of Sana’a.  He also had a chance to meet a greater variety of people from all walks of life.  He also got a chance to taste new varieties of food while enjoying his favorite hobby of relishing on meals in different restaurants every now and then.

On the other hand, on minibus, rarely does the driver engage in a conversation with the passengers.  However a taxi provides ample opportunities to engage in conversations with his passengers, and thus Mansour found a new avenue for a change to enter into his life with an improved income and greater morale in facing up to the challenges of life with his new vocation.

At least that was the case until a new tragic turn in his life fatefully entered the course Mansour’s life took.  He relates to us:  “On a typically normal day in 2008, he was parked on a commercial center, a normal taxi stand in that part of Sana’a.  An elderly came wanting a ride and agreed with him on a fare and hopped in to his taxi.  She asked him to await her three daughters coming out of the commercial center.  When the three girls came, they refused to get aboard his ageing taxi, describing the car as just “a piece of scrap”.  The old lady apologized to him and disembarked from Mansour’s car.  She followed her 3 girls, who had embarked on a newer and more sumptuous looking car.

Mansour felt embarrassed and humiliated by this unfortunate incident.  This drove Mansour to sell his old vehicle and replaced it with a newer taxi, a 2001 Toyota Echo.  Mansour suddenly realized his income improved noticeably, because the engine of the new car required less fuel and his passengers were willing to pay bigger fares for their rides.  He said:  “The newer car was more attractive to passengers, who now were of a greater income class!”.  So, in a sense, he was glad those three spoiled girls had heretofore humiliated him.  They opened up new fortunes for him!  We have a saying in Sana’a, sometimes misfortune opens up new unforeseen fortunes!”

I asked him, how much was the average profit margin in the new taxi?.  He said that after deducting petrol and meals, his net intake was $20 to $30 per day.  In Yemen that is considerable a good net income.

The Arab Spring and Thereafter:

The Yemeni “Peaceful Youth Revolution” of 2011 did not drastically affect his income, except for two weeks, when there was no gasoline available in Sana’a. However, he had to amend his routes and he had to avoid destinations where there were vigils by the parties to the political conflict then, thus evading problems and crowded traffic.

Recalling the aura in those hectic  days, Mansour remarked in a businesslike manner:  “Those hectic days compelled taxi drivers to follow the passengers’ political whims:  “Taxi drivers had to keep with the political inclinations of the passengers; if the passenger was with the revolt, I then become just as revolutionary as the passenger; if the passenger was on the regime’s side, then surely I am pro regime!  However, I actually avoided the evils of either side!  My concern was just to keep my family fed and all other things really of little relevance to me!”

The War Years:

In March 2015 war broke out.  Gasoline was not readily available in the Capital City of Sana’a, which is a highly congested city, population wise, with over 2 million inhabitants.   article

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