(MENAFN - Arab News) Rafia al-ameemi is the first and possibly the only emirati female butler working in the uae. she says it was difficult to explain to people why this job is interesting but she believes that many think it’s a taboo for emirati women to work in service departments of hotels.
al-ameemi works at the seven-star hotel burj al-arab and says the best experience she has had is in the jumeirah hotels of dubai. she holds a degree in human resources which she says has helped her a lot when dealing with hotel guests and other employees.
we met al-ameemi at her hotel in dubai and talked to her about her passion for service. she said that she would never look for another job and is satisfied to break certain stereotypes of female emiratis.
tell us about yourself.
my name is rafia tarish al-ameemi. i work as an assistant operation manager in the butler service department in burj al-arab. i have studied human resource management and as i was studying i started getting interested in the hospitality sector even though i didn’t know much about it except that it is a place that we sleep in when we travel.
i learned that there are not many emiratis working in that sector which built my curiosity to learn more about it. this got me to do my internship in a hotel and i loved it. this pushed me to go back and study hospitality at the emirates academy of hospitality management and i graduated with an associate degree. then i started my management program within jumeirah hotels as an assistant operation manager in national development which is a one-year management program.
what is it about the hospitality sector that attracted you?
everything. from the work environment and the people to the job itself. it is very interesting and i chose jumeirah because it is one of the leading hospitality companies in the uae if not the whole world. i joined them in february 2012 and i still love working here day in and day out.
describe your job to us.
basically we handle the butler department where we have 21 floors in burj al-arab and every floor has two butlers sitting. we have an admin butler who sits on the desk to control the billing bookings dinners and all paper work. we have operation butlers who are responsible for all suites. we follow the guest and we are responsible for them from the moment they check in until they check out.
my job requires me to meet guests on a daily basis and be on the floor to arrange things for the guests and be on ground with the butlers who are on duty. if we have a fully booked hotel you will always find me working hand in hand with the butlers to make sure everything is done with the hotels standard.
you said that not many emiratis work in this sector. why is it so?
i think because people don’t understand what hospitality is. i get asked a lot as to why do i want to work in a hotel. i don’t blame them because they don’t know anyone who ever worked in a hotel. so they are scared. i think it is a prestigious place to work in and the things you do here is not highlighted in the media and not many are aware about it. they only think hotels are taboos especially for women working here and it is a bit normal for men but not women.
what is the message you want to deliver to the world?
it is an amazing job and you get to meet with different people from all over the world and you work with people who are passionate about their jobs just like myself. i am the only uae national in my department of 202 people. some of the people i work with have never interacted with a local before. imagine not learning about the people who live in the same country as you are!
i am giving the right picture of what should be normal where locals work in different positions whether in front or back office. i think i’m breaking the stereotype by working in this field and i love being a butler. i would like people to learn more and read more about this interesting job.
walk us through the details of your daily life at the hotel.
if i’m doing a duty manager shift i come at 7 a.m. and take handover from the duty manager and go through all the feedback and things that happened through the previous night and follow up on them. i then go to the butler’s briefing at 7:30 a.m. and highlight the things that happened and start preparing for the activities such as the national day where we prepare gifts and custom-made appreciation cards or chocolates. after the briefing i start my meeting with my director to go through all the feedback. i also attend a meeting with the general manager to go through investigations that need to be followed up. then i finally meet with my team to divide work so we go on the floors and check suites and guest profiles. we also have a lot of activities in the butler department such as for christmas we headed to toy stores to buy our younger guests gifts. once we arranged a santa claus who pushed a trolley around the suites to distribute the gifts. so every season has a different taste.
how is the response like from guests who for the first time meet an emirati female butler?
sometimes i get a call from a butler saying that i should meet a certain guest because they have never met a local before. i love meeting them and answer their questions about our traditions and cultures and i will always love meeting guests and introducing them to my heritage and culture.
how did you convince your family to work in a hotel?
at the beginning to say the truth everyone asked me what am i getting myself into especially that i have never met anyone who did what i do now so i didn’t have the answer to their questions. i kept telling them that i want to try it at least. so i worked in the front office and also managed the jumeirah airport service where i picked people from the airport. i loved it and wanted to do more of it. what happened is that i wanted to try all the departments in the hotel and i also tried housekeeping and that’s when my mom was shocked because i don’t even clean my own room but i did it for the guests and i was so proud of it and used to ask colleague to take a picture of me cleaning. it was such an amazing experience because i got to see how a hotel is operated behind closed doors.
my family is very proud of me and they are very supportive especially when they see how persistent i am.
what are the challenges you face on your job?
here we don’t have challenges. if the guest wants the moon we have to bring the moon. there is no other choice but to make his wish our command.
there was a guest who requested a type of tea that was not available in dubai. it was not even sold in the whole gcc area and we were horrified that we cannot make his wish come true we searched online and found it in france only and it would take around two weeks to be delivered and by then the guest would have checked out. we started freaking out and we finally found a great solution where we asked one of the emirates airlines hostesses to bring back some and so she did and the guest was happy. we do things like this all the time and this is what we call the luxury of hospitality.
where do you see yourself in the future?
nowhere i want to stay here. i love it so much that i want to do this all my life.
it wasn’t easy for me starting here because there are a lot of stereotypes about emiratis especially in the service sector. so i have to explain over and over that i’m a 100 percent emirati and my family is ok with me working as a butler. most emiratis don’t see the service sector as classy it is new to them and i don’t know why.
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