“I have no fear inside me,” Afrah Al Harbi states with conviction.
Al Harbi is a 22-year-old captain from Al Ula, who recently became the first Saudi Arabian woman to pilot a hot air balloon, in addition to being the first woman to earn the license to navigate them.
Don’t be fooled by her young age, as she has driven these aircrafts 55 times until now, including piloting them at Al Ula’s Skies Festival.
The Saudi captain is one of the many pilots hired to fly the hot air balloons at the AlUla Skies Festival. This festival is one of the much-anticipated events of the year, as it includes many sky-bound activities such as hot-air balloon rides, helicopter tours and more.
“When hot-air ballooning started in Al Ula, I saw the balloons but I never thought I would be able to fly one of them,” Al Harbi states to Arab News in a recent conversation.
Al Harbi underwent training at the Saudi Arabian Hot Air Ballooning Federation, while she was still studying a degree in hospitality at the Taibah University in Al Ula.
This federation is quite new, as it officially opened its doors and launched its training programs in 2019, after witnessing the immense triumph of the Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Winter at Tantora Festival.
Even though Al Harbi is quite talented at what she does, and she does dabble with the idea that this could be her fulltime career, for now she views it as a part time hobby.
Al Harbi’s grit and determination manifests itself on all levels, as she talks about her journey of getting into being a captain and getting accepted into the training program, “Why not me?”
With the hot air balloons towering over the grand skies of Al Ula, overseeing the historical attractions and stunning rock formations, we can only imagine how unparalleled the views are from top.
“There is no better way to experience, enjoy and appreciate AlUla’s majestic landscape and natural beauty than from the air,” Al Harbi confirms to the online news outlet.