x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

'The UAE is more than tall buildings'

Woman trained in tourism is pleased to have an opportunity at home in Ras Al Khaimah and aims to display the real side of the region.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Azza Yousef can tell you in her grandmother's words why the kandura is white and why the shayla is black.

She will explain why some women prefer not to shake hands and can answer questions about family life with the utmost tact and understanding.

In Dubai, Ms Yousef worked in human resources at the Jumeirah Group and introduced dozens of nationalities to the UAE.

"Why do girls wear black and why do men wear white. The typical questions," she said.

But after a year in Dubai, she returned home to Ras Al Khaimah and left the hospitality industry.

"I live in RAK and the journey was long and I got another offer," Ms Yousef said.

Tourism offers women such as Ms Yousef local job opportunities that can be hard to find. It is common for men to commute to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for work.

Women from the emirate are more educated, but also likely to stay home. They are often unemployed after graduation.

"It's very hard for women to find jobs in RAK other than teaching or banking," Ms Yousef said.

"The wages are very low but it's changing slowly. With the tourism sector growing and new projects coming, maybe the new graduates will have more options than I did."

Ms Yousef was quick to enrol in the tour guide courses offered by RAK's tourism authority.

She does work as a teacher and plans to continue in this career but also freelance part time as a guide.

"It allows me to be a teacher about my own country and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed telling people about my own country and learning at the same time about it," said Ms Yousef.

She does not believe the conservatism of RAK will be an issue - most of her colleagues in Dubai were from RAK and Fujairah. But she has hopes her friends will follow in her footsteps.

"When I start something they say: 'No, no, no, we're not going to get into this'. But then when I do, they do."

She said she wants to show tourists "the real side" of the UAE.

"Everybody thinks the UAE is just tall buildings. It's not just that. Even the people are changing.

"We have different places that tourists should know about."