Thursday, February 09, 2023 | Rajab 17, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Journeys to grassroots

‘The whole idea is to create a sustainable form of income for the locals through tourism. Visitors can join different experiences with locals located all over the Dhofar Governorate and experience either a hike, cultural practices or visit different sites with locals. The returns from the project will be given to the guides as a form of income, support training courses and community volunteers in Dhofar.’ ~ Wisal al Rashdi, founder of Ghudu Project

A new community tourism project by youngsters Nooralhuda al Mandhari and Wisal al Rashdi provides authentic experiences for visitors with the locals of Salalah in Dhofar. The project showcases the true authentic nature of Dhofar as it intensifies work among athletes and adventurers with a training programme for young recruits who will become future leaders and lead the guiding industry in Dhofar.


DO you love adventure and like to explore mountainous areas of Dhofar Governorate? A new community tourism project has now made this possible by Omani youngsters Nooralhuda al Mandhari and Wisal al Rashdi.


Both are thick pals who met during their study in Scotland 10 years ago. Now, Noor is an adventurer and founder of HUN’na, a community organisation, while Wisal is an HR manager and a certified tour guide.


Noor and Wisal exploring trails in Dhofar
Noor and Wisal exploring trails in Dhofar


The duo launched ‘Ghudu’ on June 17 to provide authentic experiences for visitors with the locals of Salalah. Ghudu means ‘let’s go in the local Jabali Shehri language.


During the pandemic in December 2020, the girls undertook a visit to Mirbat and covered the story of Anisa al Raisi, an adventurer crossing Oman in a straight line from Musandam to Mirbat.


Wisal Al Rashdi with Habibat Malayeen, a camel from Dhofar
Wisal Al Rashdi with Habibat Malayeen, a camel from Dhofar


They continued to visit Dhofar through different seasons and discovered the culture, and enjoyed its uniqueness of Dhofar. They instantly decided to launch a project that showcases the true authentic nature of Dhofar.


They met with different locals from the east to the west of Dhofar and worked closely with the communities to provide them with job opportunities and support the community through the project.


Noor with friends visiting the project launch
Noor with friends visiting the project launch


Wisal, who is very excited about the project, says, “It is our love for wanting to give back to the community that we decided to start this. We simply want the people who visit Dhofar to have the same genuine experiences that we have with the locals and enjoy it the way we do.”


Khalid Tabook from the mountain of Qairoon Hairit, experienced provider with Ghudu
Khalid Tabook from the mountain of Qairoon Hairit, experienced provider with Ghudu


Explaining the details of the concept, Wisal says, “The whole idea is to create a sustainable form of income for the locals through tourism. Visitors will be joining different experiences with locals located all over the governorate and experience either a hike, cultural practices or visit different sites. The returns from the project will be given to the guides as a form of income, support training courses, and community volunteers in Dhofar.”


Mohamed al Jahfali, experience provider in Dhofar
Mohamed al Jahfali, experience provider in Dhofar


While Noor says, “The launch was held in a cave in Dhofar West in an area called ‘Kanzoor’ which included a day tour for visitors and an open space area where visitors and locals came together to enjoy local meat (Madhbi) and black tea with oud music. We got to know more about our project and meet the locals working on it.”


Wisal and Noor with Salim al Lamki, marketing manager
Wisal and Noor with Salim al Lamki, marketing manager


Noor founded HUN’na in September 2020 from where the initial spark began. The initial goal of the online platform was to share stories of female athletes and adventurers who have different achievements in their field. This grew and developed into a community organization resulting in ‘Ghudu,’ their dream project.


Noor and Wisal exploring the jungles of Dhofar
Noor and Wisal exploring the jungles of Dhofar


Both Noor and Wisal have busy full-time jobs in Muscat. They spend their weekends traveling with different athletes and adventurers around Oman and covering their sport and narrating their stories on Instagram and Facebook.


Wisal al Rashdi and Nooralhuda al Mandhari, founders of Ghudu
Wisal al Rashdi and Nooralhuda al Mandhari, founders of Ghudu


Experience providers Khairzad Mahoud who leads an all-women hiking group, Himam Dhofar from Taqah, Jaber, and Mohamed al Jahfali from Rakhyout, Khalid, and Salim Tabook from Qairoon Hairiti are active members in the project.


The response has been incredible since they started and now have filmmaker Salim al Lamki as their marketing manager. The trio has been working hard since then and spent a lot of time on the road, attending sports events and adventures.


Nooralhuda al Mandhari and Wisal al Rashdi
Nooralhuda al Mandhari and Wisal al Rashdi


“It is when we fell in love with people’s culture and diversity of Dhofar that we decided to create a project that gives back to the community and shows the true beauty of Dhofar as we see it.”


HUN’na currently focuses on women and covers Omani athletes and adventurers to start with because they wanted to shed more light on their achievements. However, they hope to expand to the Gulf and Arab world soon. Ghudu involves both males and females and will be the only project of its kind involving both genders.


Noor explains that “The purpose of this is not to segregate a gender, we believe that there are many platforms that cover male sports and adventurers and they receive recognition but not enough as well. However, with women there is hardly any platform that focuses on that or their messages and stories. Due to social and cultural norms, it is sometimes more challenging for them to be involved and is not seen as easy as it is for males.”


Ghudu will soon launch memberships for athletes and adventurers and women planning to enter the field. This will help provide access to sports facilities, right diet, and sports gear for athletes and adventurers to practice their sport or adventure and also access to the right places and guidance.


The project’s Instagram handle is @ghudu.om


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