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Interview: Dubai’s Udrive CEO Bets on “Generational Shift” with Saudi Launch



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By Moustafa Daly

Could car ownership in Saudi Arabia become a thing of the past? Udrive’s CEO and co-founder, Nicholas Watson certainly seems to think so

Prior to 2017, tourists and residents seeking to rent cars in Dubai had little choice but to pay hefty deposits and sign extended paperwork with a car rental agency before they could take to the streets. The late 2016 launch of Udrive, a “per-minute” and daily car-sharing service, created a fully digitised car rental option in the market that involved minimal friction and no deposits. Now, it’s expanding to Saudi Arabia.

Starting with a fleet of 200 cars in Riyadh in August of this year, Udrive is planning to expand its fleet in the Saudi capital to 600 cars by the end of 2022.  “We’re running an already-existing and profitable business model which is the car rental business model,” explains Nicholas Watson, CEO and co-founder of Udrive. “What we did is completely digitise it, remove all its frictions, and then fractionalise access to the rentals so instead of one day you can rent it by the minute.”

Removing this “friction”, such as paperwork, deposits, and refuelling, is at the core of Udrive’s value proposition. “We lease our fleet of cars from leasing companies on a two-or-three-year-lease, and then we lease it back to our customers per minute or day. We take away all the friction; all the long-term responsibilities, and give our customers no responsibility but driving,” continues Watson.

Udrive has witnessed success in Dubai, with the startup’s latest funding round in February 2022 seeing it raise $5 million, supported by the expansion of its operations in the city. Its operations in the emirate have now reached around 39,000 rentals a month on a fleet of 650 cars, confirms Watson.


Saudi Arabia, a country with a car-ownership rate of 92%, offers a different set of challenges. What Udrive is betting on is a generational shift in car consumption habits.

“If I had told you 15 years ago that you’d never buy a DVD again you wouldn’t have believed me, and DVDs effectively had a 100% penetration rate,” says Watson. “It’s the same with us here; there’s a huge market that’s going to move but they don’t know yet that they’re going to move [to digitised car-rentals].  “The reason they haven’t moved so far is because they don’t have an alternative [to car ownership].”

The traditional car-rental economy of Saudi Arabia is currently estimated at $1 billion and forecasted to reach $1.18 billion by 2026. Watson predicts that should there be enough vehicles on the street to cover the mobility needs of the population, then car ownership would effectively become obsolete. Anyone could pick up a car from anywhere at any time and leave it at their destination or have it for as long as they need sans the need to buy a vehicle and pay for its maintenance and upkeep. Even renting through traditional car-rental agencies doesn’t give a viable option to consumers, states Watson.

“In Saudi Arabia, if you wanted to rent a car two times a week because you work from home and only need to go to the office two times a week, the friction of doing that is so great that you’d end up not doing it.”


Udrive is initially mainly targeting local and expat millennial and Gen Z consumers that reside in Saudi Arabia on a full-time basis. Another target consumer group is made up of tourists and job seekers that are in need of temporary mobility whilst in the Kingdom.

Watson acknowledges that Udrive is initially targeting relatively well-off customers that can afford to pay up to SAR 150 ($39.90) a day for a car rental. “It’s not your typical blue-collar worker, but rather the receptionists all the way up to sales and marketing employees,” says Watson.

Ultimately yet eventually, Udrive’s mission is to reach those who need its services most, and those are low-income segments. Watson explains that this will only be achieved once the company has established a big enough user base that enables Udrive to expand its fleet of rentals to low-range vehicles that would be affordable for most.

“For example, several of our investors use Udrive because they needed a second car for the weekend for example, or a bigger one for visiting family members. However, our key fundamental is human-needs mobility, which are people who need [our vehicles] to get to work or get to the supermarket.”

Furthermore, with the Kingdom pushing for expansion in tourism, Udrive plans to introduce fleets specifically designed to cater to tourism-related activities and open up a convenient car-rental option for transient groups.

Aiming to reach a fleet of 600 cars in Riyadh by the end of the year, Udrive is planning major expansions across the region in 2023, with Jeddah, Dammam and other major Saudi cities being top of the list. It’s aiming to operate a 1,500 rental fleet across Saudi cities by the end of 2023. Other GCC capitals like Manama, Doha, and Kuwait are also slated for expansions during the upcoming year“. Towards the end of 2023 we’ll be launching in Egypt,” reveals Watson.

Courtesy:  ZawyaA

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Israeli Military Destroys 604 Mosques in Gaza




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In a recent report by the Palestinian Samaa news agency, the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza have destroyed 604 mosques and partial damage to over 200 more. This alarming figure highlights the severe impact of ongoing conflicts on religious and cultural sites in the region.

The Israeli military has not only targeted mosques but has also wreaked havoc on other religious sites. According to the report, 60 cemeteries have been targeted, leading to further distress among the local population. The occupying regime has been accused of desecrating these sacred sites, with reports of the kidnapping and slaughtering of over 1,000 martyrs and deceased individuals. This has intensified the suffering of families who have lost their loved ones and now face the added trauma of not being able to bury them with dignity.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs in Gaza has been significantly affected by the Israeli attacks. The report details the destruction of 15 of the ministry’s headquarters, including its main office, the headquarters of Radio Quran, Khan Yunis Endowment Management, and the center for preserving documents and manuscripts. These attacks have disrupted the ministry’s administrative functions and resulted in the loss of invaluable religious and historical records.

The human cost of these attacks is equally tragic. The report states that 91 employees of the Ministry of Awqaf in Gaza have been martyred in the Israeli military’s operations. These individuals were not just government employees but community members dedicated to preserving and promoting religious practices and cultural heritage in Gaza.

In the context of these devastating events, it’s essential to highlight the broader implications and the latest related developments. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza has drawn international condemnation, with numerous human rights organizations calling for an immediate ceasefire and a thorough investigation into the attacks on civilian and religious sites.

Recent reports from various international media outlets have underscored the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United Nations and other global bodies have been vocal about the urgent need for humanitarian aid and the protection of civilians in conflict zones. The destruction of mosques, cemeteries, and religious headquarters not only disrupts the daily lives of Gaza’s residents but also erodes the cultural and religious fabric of the community.

The destruction of 604 mosques in Gaza by the Israeli military is a stark reminder of the toll that ongoing conflicts take on religious and cultural heritage. As the international community continues to monitor the situation, it’s crucial to support efforts that promote peace and protect the sanctity of religious sites. Events like the Halal Fair highlight the resilience of communities in maintaining their traditions and values despite facing significant challenges.

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What is Zakat al-Fitr and When to Pay it?




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As the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close, Muslims around the globe prepare for one of Islam’s most significant acts of charity – Zakat al-Fitr. This pivotal practice not only marks the culmination of a month dedicated to fasting and spiritual growth but also emphasizes Islam’s deep-rooted principles of community support and compassion. But what exactly is Zakat al-Fitr, and when is the ideal time to fulfill this important Islamic duty? Dive into our comprehensive guide to understand the essence, timing, and impact of Zakat al-Fitr, ensuring you’re well-prepared to participate in this act of kindness and solidarity.

The Essence of Zakat al-Fitr

Zakat al-Fitr, often simply called Fitrana, is a form of charity given to the poor at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Think of it as a purification tax for the fasting person, cleansing minor transgressions committed during the month. But it’s more than just a corrective measure; it’s a proactive step towards fostering community spirit and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, can join in the joyous celebrations of Eid al-Fitr.

Timing is Key: When to Pay Zakat al-Fitr

The timing for Zakat al-Fitr is quite specific – it should be given before the Eid al-Fitr prayers. This precise timing ensures that the charity reaches those in need in time for them to make use of it for their Eid celebrations. Imagine you are preparing a banquet and want to ensure everyone has something to bring to the table. Paying Zakat al-Fitr just before Eid is akin to inviting everyone to join the feast, ensuring no one is left out of the celebration.

Who Should Pay Zakat al-Fitr?

Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory for all Muslims who have the means to do so. This includes adults and children, with the head of the household often paying on behalf of the young ones. Imagine if every member of a family plants a seed in a garden; over time, these seeds grow into a lush oasis. Similarly, when each family member contributes to Zakat al-Fitr, it strengthens the communal bonds and spreads happiness far and wide.

How Much to Pay?

The amount of Zakat al-Fitr is not measured in currency but in the staple foodstuff of your community – be it wheat, barley, dates, or rice. The Prophet Muhammad specified it as one Sa’a (approximately between 2.6 kg to 3kg) of food for each person. In today’s terms, many scholars suggest translating this amount into your local currency, making it easier to fulfill this obligation. Picture filling a basket with enough food to feed a family; that’s the spirit you are aiming to replicate with your contribution.

The Beneficiaries of Your Generosity

Zakat al-Fitr is intended for the poor and the needy, a means to spread happiness and allow everyone to celebrate Eid with dignity and joy. It is like sending out invitations to a grand dinner where everyone is a guest of honor. By giving Zakat al-Fitr, you are ensuring that the less fortunate are not forgotten but are instead an integral part of the communal celebration.

The Impact of Zakat al-Fitr: A Ripple Effect

The beauty of Zakat al-Fitr lies in its immediate and far-reaching impact. It is not just about the act of giving but about the connections and community it builds. Like a single lamp lighting others, your act of generosity can brighten the lives of many, creating a ripple effect of kindness and compassion that echoes beyond Eid.

Personal Stories of Zakat al-Fitr

Let us consider a story to bring this to life. Imagine a small community where every household sets aside a portion of their staple food for Zakat al-Fitr. As the collection grows, so does a sense of unity and anticipation. On the day of Eid, this collective effort translates into a shared celebration, with everyone -regardless of their economic status – joining in the feast. It is a beautiful illustration of how individual acts of kindness can weave a tapestry of communal joy.

Making Zakat al-Fitr Part of Your Ramadan

Incorporating Zakat al-Fitr into your Ramadan practice enriches your spiritual experience, reminding us that Islam is a religion of balance – between personal devotion and social responsibility. As we seek closeness to Allah through fasting and prayer, we are also called to extend our compassion to those around us.

Embracing the Spirit of Zakat al-Fitr

As we approach the end of Ramadan, let’s embrace Zakat al-Fitr not just as a duty, but as an opportunity to express our gratitude for all we have been given by giving back to those in need. In doing so, we not only purify our own fasts but contribute to a wider celebration of love, compassion, and communal solidarity.

Zakat al-Fitr is a beautiful tradition that encapsulates the essence of Ramadan: reflection, renewal, and generosity. By understanding its significance and meticulously observing its practice, we not only comply with a religious obligation but also contribute to a more inclusive, compassionate, and joyful Eid celebration for everyone. Let’s carry the spirit of Zakat al-Fitr in our hearts and actions, making it a beacon of light that guides us from the sacred month of Ramadan into the rest of the year.

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Exploring Iftar Traditions Around the Globe




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As the crescent moon marks the beginning of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide prepare for a month of spiritual reflection, community, and of course, delicious food! Every evening at sunset comes Iftar, the time to break the fast and enjoy a shared meal with loved ones. But Iftar traditions vary greatly across the globe, offering a fascinating glimpse into different cultures. From savory dishes in Morocco to sweet treats in Indonesia, join us on a delicious journey as we explore Exploring Iftar Traditions Around the Globe!

The Essence of Iftar: Exploring Diverse Traditions Around the World

Imagine the Maghreb call to prayer echoing through the city as families in Morocco prepare for Iftar. The table is a colorful mosaic of dates, harissa (a savory tomato and lentil soup), and chakra (flower-shaped cookies coated with honey and sesame seeds). The act of breaking the fast with a date isn’t just a Moroccan tradition; it’s a practice deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and followed across many countries, symbolizing the simplicity and purity of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) own practices. This gesture, as small as it may seem, embodies the essence of Iftar: a return to simplicity, gratitude, and unity.

A Feast Under the Stars in the Middle East

Journey with me to the Middle East, where the Iftar scene transforms into a lavish spread under the stars. In countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, families and friends gather in majlis tents to share Iftar, reflecting a sense of community and generosity. The air is filled with the aroma of spiced lamb, kabsa, and the sweetness of kunafa. The majlis, traditionally a place of social gathering, becomes a symbol of togetherness and hospitality during Ramadan, embodying the spirit of sharing and giving.

The Simplicity and Serenity of Southeast Asia

Our next stop is Southeast Asia, where the essence of Iftar shines through the simplicity and serenity of its observance. In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, the breaking of the fast is often preceded by the consumption of kolak, a sweet coconut milk-based dessert with bananas and sweet potatoes. This humble dish highlights the importance of gratitude and moderation, reminding us that the spirit of Ramadan lies not in the extravagance of the meal but in the sincerity of the gathering.

The Communal Harmony of South Asia

In the bustling streets of South Asia, Iftar brings a moment of calm and togetherness amidst the chaos. Pakistan and Bangladesh are known for their Iftar bazaars, where streets come alive with vendors selling a variety of snacks and sweets. Samosas, pakoras, and jalebis are shared amongst neighbors and friends, illustrating the communal harmony that Ramadan fosters. It’s a scene where the rich tapestry of South Asian culture is on full display, with Iftar serving as a bridge between diverse communities.

The Global Melting Pot

As we journey from one country to another, exploring the traditions of Iftar, we realize that it is more than just a meal; it is a global melting pot of traditions, flavors, and stories. Each dish, each gathering, tells a story of heritage, faith, and unity. The essence of Iftar lies in its ability to bring people together, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. It is a time when differences are set aside, and the universal values of kindness, generosity, and compassion are celebrated.

As the sun sets, signaling the end of the day’s fast, millions worldwide gather for Iftar, embodying the essence of Iftar: exploring diverse traditions around the world. This meal, far more than just nourishment, marks a time of joy, reflection, and community. Spanning from Cairo’s liveliness to Indonesia’s tranquility, Iftar traditions showcase a rich cultural tapestry. In embracing these varied customs and flavors, we uncover the unity and diversity of the Muslim Ummah. The essence of Iftar reminds us of Islam’s beauty and diversity, urging us to appreciate our global community’s shared values of community, gratitude, and reflection as we break our fast, infused with the spirit of Ramadan.

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