With a wide smile, a taxi driver in the city of Basra, southern Iraq, offers a free book to passengers so they could read for whole 10 minutes without using their smartphones in his cab which is now known as the “Reading Taxi.”
Ali Muayyad Kassem, a high-school student and an avid reader, has been obliged to work as a taxi driver to provide the needs of his family of eight members. Through a personal initiative which he launched to promote his reading hobby.
Kassem, 20, decided to put some books in his car, so he can read them during traffic or while waiting a customer. Then, his idea turned into a campaign for sharing books.
When he started his work as a taxi driver, he faced some challenges that kept him away from books, writing, and reading. However, since he needs his job and couldn’t give up on his love for reading, he made a compromise between his work and his hobby and further wanted the passengers to read.
A year ago, Kassem launched his initiative by using his own books, but, he quickly caught the attention of publishers who contacted him and offered him free books, aiming at promoting their releases. His car now contains around 20 books covering many topics such as literature, philosophy, political science, and many others.
“One commuter, two, three, heard about the idea and demanded books, so I asked myself, why don’t I transform my car into a “Reading Taxi”, so it becomes a public library that provides books to everyone. Books are a great blessing that we missed,” Kassem said. According to Reuters, in order to motivate passengers on reading in his car, the 20-year-old man tells them that if they read a book for 10 continuous minutes, they can take it for free.
A passenger called Ali Al-Nuri, a retired instructor, praised the idea, saying: “It is a great idea actually.”
Basra, built by the Abbasids in the seventh century, was once a hub for commerce and tourism. And then it became an intellectual hub, known for its architecture, mosques and libraries, from where emerged important Arab and Islamic intellects, before it becomes a tourist destination in the seventies and early eighties.