Saudi Arabia’s first female tour guide, Maryam Al-Harbi, who was named as the best tour guide for 2017 by SCTH
By Mohammed Al Kinani, Arab News
JEDDAH – A prominent female tour guide has called on the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) to grant women leadership positions as they are now “qualified to shoulder high-profile jobs” within SCTH.
Saudi Arabia’s first female tour guide, Maryam Al-Harbi, who was named as the best tour guide for 2017 by SCTH, told Arab News that Saudi women are capable of being appointed to leadership positions.
Al-Harbi was one of two speakers at a workshop held on Thursday night.
The panel discussion was part of the Makkah Economic Forum 2018 activities. The other speaker was Maria Mahdaly, a Saudi entrepreneur.
“It is true that any successful work needs the full collaboration of both genders, but women in Saudi Arabia have shown great interest in learning and developing themselves in the field of archaeology,” said Al-Harbi, who recently obtained an MA degree from King Saud University’s college of tourism and archaeology.
Besides speaking Arabic and English, Al-Harbi also speaks Turkish and is working on improving her Chinese language skills.
She guides visitors to Madinah, including private delegations, school students and university groups, as well as Umrah and Hajj visitors, and helps delegations visiting the provinces of Al-Oula, Madain Saleh, Khaibar, and Badr.
Al-Harbi said that there was still a need to have more departments at Saudi universities where female students could study archaeology.
“We only have one college for archaeology studies at King Saud University. This department offers only MA and Ph.D. degrees,” she said.
She added that students in many universities had not found jobs in the tourism sector so they opted to join other sectors such as education.
The workshop discussed the importance of languages for tour guides. Abeer Abu Suleiman, first Saudi woman tour guide and moderator of the gathering, said that a tour guide needed to be acquainted with as many languages as possible, but English was a must as it is so widely spoken.
The gathering discussed Saudi Arabia’s rich traditions and tourism sites and highlighted the country’s competence to host hundreds of thousands of visitors. They gave the Hajj season as an example of the Kingdom’s ability to host gatherings of people from different cultural backgrounds.