From the Omani desert into German forest
'I don’t regret leaving behind a safe job option to start my own business', says Amur Alrawahi. During our CrossCulture Programme, young professionals like him get to know the work routine in a different cultural setting through a two to three months internship in Germany. Most of them are from countries that are predominantly influenced by Islam, like Amur Alrawahi from Oman. In this interview he talks about his experience of creating a travel agency in Oman as well his experience in German nature based tourism so far and how he wants to transfer his gained knowledge to his company in Oman.
Interview by Leontine Päßler
ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen): At 25 years old you started your own travel agency 'Arab Adventures'. When did you decide to become a freelancer in the tourism industry of Oman?
Amur: When I was about 12 years old I met a foreign tourist for the first time and since then, I have been fascinated by the idea of working in the tourism industry. I grew up in a mountainous area of Oman, far from the state capital Muscat, so when I saw that western tourist camp near our farm, I became curious of his reasons of coming to Oman, as well as his perspectives on my country. But instead of starting right out in the industry, I started studying computer sciences and working for the Ministry of Defence. Most of Omanis do work for the state their whole life. Although this job was a safe option, I slowly started transferring to the tourism industry. I worked my way up to where I am today, starting as a driver and later working as a guide for different companies. During that time, I noticed that all big companies offered the same type of 'classic programmes'. It was always the same thing over and over again. This gave me the idea to develop my own touristic programmes within my own company.
ifa: How did you pursue that idea and where you successful right away?
Amur: In 2011 I opened my own agency. My first year was not a successful one at all. I did not have the necessary connections, skills and knowledge on how to bring the clients to me. I started networking with a lot of people in Oman who knew more about the tourism scene and especially the big companies and the Ministry of Tourism. The most important thing for me was to create my own programmes and to advertise them at the international tourism trade fare (ITB) in Berlin. Although my family was not happy at first, I think leaving behind a safe job option to start my own business was the best decision of my life. Moreover, pursuing my goal made me an even stronger person and gave me a sense of freedom.
ifa: This summer you swapped the independence of self-employment to participate in ifa’s CrossCulture Programme. How have you been experiencing the work in your host organization the ‘Hainich National Park’ here in Germany?
Amur: The 'Hainich National Park' has a great variety of trees and animals. The diversity of nature and their touristic services, like the 44 meter high Canopy Walk, are very impressive. When I arrived, I was welcomed very warmly at the national park. I am actually staying with the family of Mr. Grossmann, the head of the park, so we have a lot of time to talk about Hainich and about German culture in general. One thing that is very different from my work in Oman is the daily commute. In Oman I use the car, but here in Germany I go to work by bike every morning. I have learned that those 25 minutes are a great way of starting the day. While riding the bike I enjoy looking at the landscape around me and listening to the birds.
ifa: How exactly does your work at the national park look like?
Amur: Right now I am working on a project at the research department, which focuses on the life of wild boars in the park. I have been working with different tracking tools to watch their daily routine and learn about their activities. We are tracking about 60 wild boars so far as well as red deer. Another project I took part in was a children’s camp. For two days I camped in the park with a school class. At daytime we explored the forest and at night-time we watched animals like the rare wildcats.
ifa: You will be staying in Germany for over one and a half more months. If you look at the weeks ahead: What kind of knowledge and insights would you like to acquire at 'Hainich National Park'?
Amur: I have had a lot of contact with German people through my company in Oman and they told me a lot about Germany, but now it is time to see everything with my own eyes. There is a big difference between hearing people speak about a country and seeing how people really live. I want to get a better understanding of my European clients, especially the German clients, through my stay here. What do they need? Who are they? How do they think? What are their cultural identities? Also I want to transfer the knowledge I gain here to my employees and incorporate some of the 'German work ethic' of being serious and innovative into my company.
ifa: Thank you for sharing your experience with us. We wish you a great remaining stay.