Unsung Heroes: Hiba Al Hejazi

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Blog, Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes: Hiba Al Hejazi

Organiser of Oman Desert Expeditions

 

As a half Saudi, half Jordanian Londoner, Hiba Al Hejazi is living proof that different cultures can live in harmony together. She is a strong advocate for connecting cultures. She runs ‘Oman Desert Expeditions‘, which takes internationally-diverse groups of individuals, divided by gender, on trips into the desert in order to help them further cultural dialogue between their different communities.

“In the desert we work to break down stereotypes and misconceptions we have about each other. It is incredible how quickly this can happen when you are away from the technological distractions and hectic environment of the modern-day world”, she explains. “I have personally seen girls from different parts of the world connect instantly through simple human interaction even though none of the girls had visited each others´ countries before. In the space of a week we were able to build very close friendships that have lasted to this day. The trip helped me realize that even people with mixed heritage like me can be unwittingly privy to holding prejudices or stereotypes about other parts of the world.”

The organization, headed by Mark Evans and supported by UNESCO, actively works to embrace people from different corners of the world. The participants´ backgrounds range from Western and Eastern Europe to the Middle and Far East. This experience moved Hiba to voluntarily promote the organization´s work through her journalist and blogging activities, as well as share her experiences and lessons of her time in the dessert here in the Wild 10 Congress.

“The lack of diversion or entertainment allows you to really sit down and get to know people. There is not much else to do. It gives you the chance to ask about the misconceptions we have about different cultures. Through this you are able to learn that we have far more things in common than we do differences.”

Did the wilderness play a role in this process? “The wilderness humbles you. It reminds you that to the animal kingdom, earth and universe that surrounds us, we are all the same species. Human. Regardless of our different ethnicities, religions, nationalities, race, colors and creeds, we have a common need to survive. The trials and tribulations involved in this expedition helped us work through our differences and reminded us of our basic similarities. By going through this together, we were able to build shared experiences which helped us bond.

By the end of the expedition we were all in agreement that sharing this common experience of the wilderness helped us create a safe and open atmosphere which benefitted and furthered our discussions. These conditions could not have been easily replicated if we had met in location such as a meeting hall around a table.”

“My message to WILD10 is that the wilderness can teach us a lot about ourselves. In the wilderness, we are stripped down to our core being as humans and it is therefore a lot easier to build bridges as the walls we build around us in our modern-day lives dissolve. It´s something maybe the UN should take note of. If representatives of Iran and the US were around a campfire instead of in the splendors of the UN they could see each other as fellow humans rather than opposing enemies. It may not solve the problem, but it would certainly help”.

www.omandesertexpeditions.com

This interview was conducted by Gilles Havik – Gilles, who is from the Netherlands, graduated in Biology & Forest and Nature Conservation and is currently working for the municipality of Amsterdam on various conservation projects. He writes a blog called Sailing On Dreams.

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