An Instagram user had mocked the cleaner, who is from Bangladesh but works in Riyadh, by posting the photo with a caption that read “he looks as though he is seeing trash”.
“I received tons of phone calls and messages in response to my tweet. Some were really helpful, while others were claiming that they were the cleaner,” al Qahtani said.
“But three hours [after] my tweet, which was shared over 6,000 times, we found him,” the 38-year-old businessman told CNN over the phone.
Twitter users were able to identify the location of the cleaner, Nazer al-Islam Abdul Karim, from the reflection of the shop glass visible in the photo.
When al Qahtani posted a new photo of Abdul Karim, people began asking for a way to get in touch with him.
“Some wanted to donate gold sets, others cash, iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones,” al Qahtani said. “Even a rice company wanted to donate rice bags to Nazer al-Islam.”
Turki al-Dajam, an executive at a Saudi sports channel, posted videos on Snapchat showing Abdul Karim choosing a gold set. He also posted photos of the cleaner with his new gifts.
Abdul Karim, who is 65, told CNN that he was delighted with the gifts. Describing the moment the photo was taken, he said: “I saw a flash. I didn’t know what this was. Then I heard that my photo was in the media.”
“I was just doing my job as a cleaner in the municipality and found myself in front of the gold shop. I am very happy about the gifts and very thankful.”
Al Qahtani — who set up the Ensanyat Twitter account to connect social media users with people in need across Riyadh — said it was very endearing to see the amount of solidarity from people in Saudi Arabia, but also across the Gulf region.
“I really wish we can always stay united like this to help people in need,” he told CNN.