Mashael Al Qahtani

Mashael Al Qahtani

Journalist

Best tour guide in Saudi Arabia: “I aspire to lead”

Mariam Al-Harbi became one of the most prominent female figures in the Saudi tourism industry in part by winning the title of the best tour guide for 2017, surpassing her competitors—all male—although she has only been in business for four years.

This victory Al-Harbi accomplished encouraged her to open a training center to teach Saudi women the art of tourism. She is also dreaming of filling a leadership post in tourism to serve her country and to spread her ideas and visions about tourism.

Al-Harbi gained the highest percentage of votes from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage after examining her skills in guiding tours and the types of services she provides to tourists, including accompanying tourists who visit the most important monuments and tourist sites. She also provides sufficient explanation about the history of these landmarks, according to the Commission.

Al-Harbi faced several challenges and difficulties when she began her work as a tour guide, in large part because the Saudis were not yet accustomed to women serving as tour guides. She was able to overcome the challenges through her determination, forcing society to gradually accept her. She then surpassed basic acceptance to gain respect and praise for her professional and entrepreneurial abilities not only from tourists, but also from government officials.

Al-Harbi, studying for her master’s degree at the Faculty of Tourism and Archeology at King Saud University, confirmed to (Women 2030) her passion for archeology she had since she was a young girl. Because of this passion, she chose to work as a tour guide to assist in the preservation of monuments by presenting them—and their cultural value—to tourists and students.

Al-Harbi explains that Saudi Arabia is rich with exciting diversification of civilization and cultural heritage. Al-Harbi offers a wonderful experience in exploring and enjoying this heritage.

Apart from religious tourism that focuses on the holy places, different types of tourism are available in the Kingdom, including magnificent beaches, summer activities, sports, mountains, desert environments, and coastal activities. Additionally, medical facilities, conferences, exhibitions, environmental tourism,and shopping draw many visitors to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Harbi points out tourism in Saudi Arabia is a promising field that faces great challenges, most notably attracting domestic and foreign tourists. Al-Harbi revealed tourism is one of the most important economic sources to many countries; many countries rely heavily on it.

The Kingdom enjoys this diversity thus enabling it to be an important tourist destination for a large variety of tourists who are looking for a hospitable atmosphere with kind, welcoming people.

Al-Harbi stresses that women are an essential part of every society and play an eminent role that cannot be denied even when they do not work outside the home.

Al-Harbi notes the superiority of Saudi women in many arenas have enabled them to reach the peak of these fields, especially in economics, engineering, and sociology. Women have succeeded infields formerly limited to men, including sports and tourism.

"The Kingdom did not introduce anything new; it granted women their rights stipulated by Islam".

Previously, the Kingdom used to deprive women from these rights, but now King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his Crown Prince decided to support women and grant them their rights, thus coinciding with the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.

"This support will help in increasing women’s participation in the labor market, allow them to take on leadership positions in their home country, and will provide them with more opportunities over the coming 15 years," Al-Harbi states.

It is worth mentioning that Saudi women have recently entered and gained success in many fields that were formerly restricted to men.

Women are now allowed to drive, operate as independent entrepreneurs, and to hold prominent managerial positions in the health, social, cultural, and sports sectors, as well as tourism.

Saudi Arabia now allows foreign women over the age of 25 to enter the country without a male guardian—a relative, such as a brother, father, husband, son—with a 30-day tourist visa, an initiative that coincides with the framework of national transformation 2020, aiming to increase investment and tourism in the country.

Women in this article

Mariam Al-Harbi is a Saudi tourist activist and tour guide. She has a master's degree in Tourism and Archeology from King Saud University.

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