Meet the Saudi women running 5-star hotels

Sarah Qassim, Jabal Omar Hotels managing director, is shown speaking at a meeting in this handout photo.
Updated 19 January 2018
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Meet the Saudi women running 5-star hotels

RIYADH: Saudi women are making their mark in the hospitality world with friendly smiles and welcoming phrases. Some of them have reached beyond that and are now leading the industry and running high-end properties.

Sarah Qassim is the managing director at Jabal Omar, which is initiating a mega-project around the Makkah’s holy mosque, consisting of 40 towers.

When asked about her experience in the industry, Omar said: “When I first started in 2007 at the InterContinental Hotel in Jeddah, I was one of the first Saudi women who entered this industry; there were foreigners but not a Saudi. It was difficult. I doubted myself; people looked down on me in the beginning. Society couldn’t understand why I chose to work in the hospitality industry. They didn’t understand that it is my passion. Nowadays its completely different. After the King Abdullah Scholarship program, I believe it had a huge impact on women, definitely leading and taking bigger roles.”

Sarah is also an author. “In the hotel lobby” is the title of her published book, which she classifies as an “educational novel.” Most of the story takes place in the lobby; the idea of the novel is based on her experiences in the hotel’s lobby, which spans over 10 years.

Also, a lecturer on hospitality, she gives workshops for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Natural Heritage, and around 30 females, attend.

Sarah emphasizes: “Saudis are known for their generosity; when you go abroad, they recite poems about our hospitality, culture and beliefs. We are now trying to integrate it with international standards.”

Maram Gogandi, also a leading Saudi female in the hotel industry, was appointed general manager for Park Inn Hotel in Jeddah in 2017, with 12 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Gogandi has worked all over the world and accumulated many awards, one being an international one — The Company Hospitality Award — which she received in 2017 in Paris. She says that many were pleasantly surprised: “I was the first Arab to win it. It is an international award.”

The high position she holds now didn’t come easy, but after many years of hardships and hard work. Gogandi explains: “I was the first Saudi woman to work in sales for the government and VIP sector. It was difficult then, but now it’s a different story. Now I’m being applauded. Rezidor’s leadership, program supported me and looked into promoting a qualified Saudi female.”

She adds: “Rezidor’s leadership program now has 102 ladies, 21 of whom are in executive positions.”

“My plan is to meet with other hotels and companies, and help train Saudis of both genders. I am now making a requirements program for all Saudis. It will be systemized with specific requirements, in a specific process, in which we can define their skills and put them in the correct position in which they will be able to give more. Even training companies will benefit; we want to make a generation of leaders.”

These leading ladies spoke on their experiences during their long years in the industry. What was noted was that in the span of 10 years many things have changed. What was once considered taboo, and ladies working in this field were looked down upon, is now considered normal and even applauded. They give credit to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program which helped normalize their presence in this field and made it acceptable.

Veteran Saudi females in the hospitality industry are working hard and smart to elevate the status of Saudi women one step at a time.


Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

The Arab coalition is striving to rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, says Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani. File/Getty Images
Updated 26 May 2018
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Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

  • Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis
  • The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them

LONDON: There cannot be peace in Yemen unless Houthi militias abandon their arms, said the country’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani.

The internationally recognized government will not allow Iran, which backs the Houthis, to maintain a foothold in Yemen or interfere in its internal affairs, he added.
“This terrorist regime” in Tehran, “which supplies terrorist militias all over the world, is close to collapse as a result of international and popular pressure by the Iranian people, who are suffering as their terrorist state spends billions here and there for a foolish expansionist idea,” Al-Yamani said.
“The modern and civilized world that respects international law cannot accept the existence of a state sponsor of terrorism and all subversive and terrorist militias in the region,” he added.
“If Iran wants to be part of the social, cultural and political fabric of our region, it must rationalize its behavior.” Its “terrorist behavior… encourages the spread of violence in the region,” he said.
Al-Yamani added that he will start his tenure as foreign minister by focusing on negotiations and the efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
The government is working round the clock with the envoy’s office so he can present his ideas on June 7 after consultations with the government, Al-Yamani said.
There will be meetings in the next few days with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and a special meeting with the negotiating team, all within the framework of the envoy’s efforts in the region, Al-Yamani added.
Griffiths has visited several countries in the region, and has met with Yemen’s government and the leadership of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
The Houthis “suggest that political arrangements should come before security and military arrangements,” said Al-Yamani.
But “the coup against the state in January 2015 came as a result of the preference of political over security arrangements,” he added.
“And after the Houthis achieved their goals, they turned against the national consensus reflected in the peace and partnership agreement, under which the president provided facilities to save the homeland from the fate we have reached today,” Al-Yamani said.
“We cannot talk about any political arrangements because we consider them to be a foregone conclusion if we achieve the withdrawal and delivery of heavy and medium weapons and missiles,” he added. “We cannot retry something we tried before... The coup must end.”
The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them,” he said. “Heavy and medium weapons should be handed over, and those militias must be withdrawn.”
Al-Yamani criticized Iran’s ambassador to the UN for speaking in dovish language while his country causes destruction in Yemen.
“Most of what we have been able to remove of the mines planted by the Houthis had the trademark of Iranian industry,” Al-Yamani said.
“Even if we achieve peace today, we will need decades to demine... There will be no possibility of safe living in the areas where mines were planted.”
Al-Yamani expressed the gratitude of his government and people for the Saudi-led coalition’s support for the government to achieve security and peace in Yemen and the whole region.
Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, rebuild the Yemeni psyche destroyed by the war, distribute goods throughout Yemen, and reconstruct what was destroyed by the Houthi war machine,” he said.
“All this confirms that the project of restoring the state… is the project of life,” which is “opposed to the project of death brought by Iran and its Houthi militias to Yemen,” he added.
This interview is simultaneously published in Asharq Al-Awsat.