Maryam Al-Harbi has been named Best Tourist Guide for 2017 by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). Known as Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female tour guide, Al-Harbi was honored with the title due to her work, dedication, and skills in making the Kingdom more accessible to visitors.
According to Arab News, Al-Harbi holds a degree in archaeology, a number of qualifications in tourism from several government agencies, and is currently a masters student at King Saud University studying antiquities. She is also fluent in three languages, English, Arabic, and Turkish, and is now working on her Mandarin, making her an obvious fit for Saudi Arabia’s growing tourism industry.
Al-Harbi explained that her earlier degree in archaeology nurtured a passion for history and was a major factor is pushing her towards becoming a tour guide.
“The (tour guide) profession at one time was reserved for men in Saudi Arabia, but some women’s delegations wanted to have female guides,” she said. “My university qualifications played a role in increasing demand for tour guides among Saudi women.”
She also pointed out that tour guides in general have an important role to play “in introducing the country to newcomers. The tour guide is an ambassador who conveys the country’s culture and heritage to tourists and acquires other cultures in return.”
Al-Harbi now works as a guide for visitors to Medina, including private delegations, school students, and university groups, as well as Umrah and Hajj visitors. She also leads delegations visiting the provinces of Ola, Madain Saleh, Khyber, and Badr. Her next goal is guide visitors of the historic town of Diriyah on the northwestern outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is set to expand in the coming months as the Kingdom works developing its archaeological and natural sites, as well as build new tourism-centric projects. In addition, details regarding the rules and regulations of its tourist visas are due to be announced in about two months.