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Cabby, Oh, Cabby, Make Me a Match ...

Associated Press Writer

If you look hard enough, you can find anything in New York.

So for the lovelorn who are burned out by the bar scene, fed up with personal ads or tired of scouring the Internet, there’s another place to look for that perfect date: the back seat of a taxicab.

Specifically, Ahmed Ibrahim’s cab.

The Egyptian immigrant, 50, sets up blind dates for his single passengers through a free, impromptu matchmaking service that he runs out of his cab. He said he found mates, or at least dates, for about eight people a week.

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“New York is a very tough city for dating,” Ibrahim said while driving through the West Village recently. “I have heard a lot of crying in this cab, a lot of fighting and a lot of broken hearts.”

“Sometimes great people were just missing each other by minutes; one would get in my cab just as another had gotten out,” he said.

Funny thing is, it works.

Ask Natalie Dillon. She hopped into Ibrahim’s cab with friends on the way to a party one day in April.

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When their conversation switched to how hard it was to find a decent guy, Ibrahim chimed in through the bulletproof partition: “Hey, ladies, I make matches.”

“He really got our attention when he said that,” said Dillon, 33.

“I was kind of skeptical at first, but then I figured, ‘Oh, this is New York....’ I figured he must meet a ton of people.”

So Dillon -- a single media studies graduate student -- described what she was looking for in a guy and gave Ibrahim her cellphone number.

About six weeks later, he called her and said: “Natalie, I have a guy for you.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

She soon exchanged several phone calls with Martin Karamon, 34, a lawyer. A few weeks later, they went on a date. Six months later, the lovebirds are still going strong.

“It’s very surreal, but that’s the way it happened,” she said.

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New Yorkers have long poured their hearts out to cab drivers, but during his 21 years on the streets, Ibrahim has built deeper relationships with many of his fares.

During the holiday season, he decorates his cab with Christmas lights and ornaments. He routinely sends birthday cards to passengers that he has befriended and even hands out roses on Valentine’s Day.

Playing Miss Lonely Hearts with a hack license comes naturally to Ibrahim, although he stumbled across the part accidentally.

“I was joking around with this girl ... who said she couldn’t find a boyfriend,” he recalled. Ibrahim took her number.

Three days later, a man got in his cab and bemoaned his bad luck finding a woman. Ibrahim called the woman and gave her the man’s number. Three weeks later, she called back and said they had gone on a date and were getting along great.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my new project,’ ” he said.

So he set about it with gusto, attempting matches for doctors, lawyers and students.

Since then, he has been featured on Fox News Channel, NBC’s “Today” show and in the Wall Street Journal. He even has an agent shopping his story to producers in Hollywood.

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Ibrahim doesn’t charge for his service; he does it for fun, he said. But he doesn’t offer his help to just anybody who gets in his cab.

First, they must be serious about looking to settle down. Men in their early 20s are usually ruled out as being too young and wild. Older men who are “looking for Britney Spears” are crossed off the list for being creepy. They must be gainfully employed: No one looking for a meal ticket is invited.

Try as hard as he may, his work is about love and chemistry, so not all of his matches have been successful.

“The guy I met was a very nice person but he just wasn’t for me,” Dana Rosen, 26, said of the one date Ibrahim set her up with. “But I’m very picky and it’s hard to meet someone right away.”

She’s willing, however, to let Ibrahim set her up again.

“I trust Ahmed because he knows what I want and he knows that I’m picky,” she said. “Besides, I’m always up for something different.”

Ibrahim said he would keep working on setting his passengers up for as long as it took to find them the perfect match.

“I hope I can accomplish a few marriages,” he said. “I’m an old-fashioned guy.”

And what about for himself?

“Marriage is not for me,” said Ibrahim, who is divorced. But he has a girlfriend -- a woman he picked up in his cab.


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