Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
BEIRUT, LEBANON – Cab driving in Lebanon – traditionally the preserve of Lebanese men – is being given a feminine makeover with a fleet of bright pink taxis driven by women and accepting only women passengers.
Banet Taxi – Arabic for “Taxi for Women” – is the brainchild of Nawal Fakhri, who also runs a beauty salon in the hilly eastern suburbs of Beirut. “I was in Thailand looking for new beauty products when I saw taxis being driven by women, and I thought, ‘That’s what we need in Lebanon,’ ” she says.
The pink taxis are a startling contrast to the usual taxis found in Beirut, generally dilapidated 1970s-vintage Mercedeses driven by old men with cigarettes permanently clamped between their lips.
Since it launched earlier this year, Banet Taxi has proved hugely popular among women looking for a more comfortable and safer means of travel. “When I heard about Banet Taxis, I immediately took their phone number in case I need them to take my young children from school,” says Rima Abi Samra, a young working mother.
Banet Taxi presently has three cars with another three soon to arrive in preparation for the busy summer months when wealthy Arab tourists from the Gulf flock to Beirut. The female drivers wear uniforms of white shirts, pink ties, and a pink carnation in their hair. The cabbies often catch the attention of other motorists.
“We get men sounding their car horn and making jokes at us,” says Carmel, one of the 12 taxi drivers on the team. “I don’t mind though. I just like to drive.”