In our ‘behind the scenes’ series celebrating the publication of Gender Equality and Tourism: Beyond Empowerment, we will be introducing some of the women who contributed their personal stories to the book. We start off with Leila Lamara, a tour guide from Morocco.
It began with a family trip to Morcoco in 2017, where yours truly was lucky enough to be guided around that beautiful country by a formidable woman named… Leila. Speaking at least four languages fluently and knowing the country like the back of her hand, Leila was our indispensable key to unlock the wonders of Morocco, its culture, history and people. When it came to Stroma Cole seeking personal stories of women in tourism, her name immediately sprang to mind. And luckily for us, Leila was more than happy to share her story – which we, in turn, want to share with you below, in slightly abreviated form.
“I was born in the city of Fes, the oldest capital for the Moroccan nation. I’m the oldest of six brothers and sisters, born and raised in a very traditional conservative middle class family, in a multicultural, multi-religious community.” Leila’s first contact with tourism came during her years at high school, which was located close to Fes’ famous gate to the old town. During her lunch breaks she would watch tourists admire the structure and be fascinated by the tour guides’ account of its history and significance. Upon graduation, Leila knew exactly what she wanted to do next, and promptly enrolled in the Higher International Institute of Tourism in Tangier. While her father encouraged her throughout, the rest of the family was less supportive, deeming the profession unseemly for a girl. And it seemed that it was not just her family who felt this way – but Leila was to prove them all wrong.
“My first 2 years were simply a daily fight against colleagues who were all men – there were no women working at all in tourism. […] The most common thing I faced is when I got to a hotel, the manager […] would show me a key and tell me that the only room left was his room. […] Other tour guides would take some of my group members and tell them that I was not qualified to be a guide because I’m a woman; the travel agents I used to work for at the time received phone calls from Moroccan tour guides asking them not to assign me tours. I paid them back by giving my guests the best travel experience in Morocco they could ever have.”
To read Leila’s full account, and others by women from around the world, buy the book on the online CABI bookstore.