Biking Tourism Specialist, Al Jasra, Bahrain
With the eco-conscious tourism on the rise, Ms. Zain Al Khalifa seized an opportunity to bring people to her land. Literally she leads tours around Bahrain, on foot and on bikes, visiting historic neighborhoods, showcasing her veggie greenhouse, stopping by and talking to local craft makers, taking in the sounds and the smells at the Royal Camel Farm and ending the day with a picnic and a discussion about Bahrain, its history and current state of affairs.
Zain’s excitement to reveal Bahrain’s gems, passion for her country’s culture and people are on display here. Here is the smile of a woman doing exactly what she is meant to. Zain took us through the coastal village of Al Jasra known for having a strong handcrafting history. We visited a handicraft center, launched to preserve local traditions, containing woodworking shop, basket and textile weaving centers and pottery making space.
Please enjoy the WOW Woman feature on Zain Al Khalifa, along with images from her tour of the historic neighbourhood of Al Jasra and its adorable inhabitants.
My name is Zain Al Khalifa.
2. Where is your hometown?
I'm from Bahrain, its a small enough place to not come from a specific part, but if I must, I'm from Riffa.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
Today, I show people the island of Bahrain and help them experience it for what it really is.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
I've always known that I wanted to do something in the field of travel and experiences. At some point I wanted to be a mountaineer, because that was my previous experience, being an awesome tour guide. It took a while for me to get to where I am at today.
I moved back from the United States, inspired and excited to make things happen back home. I got straight into the concept of Localppl, a platform to connect travelers and locals. It didn't work out initially. Since then I tried many different jobs, including being a football (soccer) coach, which I had a lot of fun in. The turning point came before I became a football coach.
I decided to use the path of "LOVE" which for me meant that I did whatever called my heart and whatever was fun. What sounded ridiculous to some was so liberating to myself.
I struggled to make sense of "work". As the years went by, Hessa, my business partner was the only consistent guide on the Localppl platform and we decided to come together to expand on the experiences. It was exciting to see that the demand was growing for more experiential tours or activities.
I've been most proud of allowing myself to create something and work with uncertainty. Not knowing exactly how things will go has allowed us to create even greater experiences for ourselves.
5. What did you study in school?
I studied Global Studies at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. I headed to Boston because I knew there were plenty of students and it would make it easier to assimilate into a culture and city life that I hadn’t experienced before. That really helped to have so many different kinds of institutions around. I was able to change majors and universities with ease. It's a historical city and full of knowledge which was exhilarating for a fresh high school graduates.
My focus was on History, Culture, Politics & Religion. It brought many different topics together, allowing me to see a bigger picture in life in general. It has also helped me tremendously on this path today.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
It is so much more exciting! I thought I'd be "proper" or "polished" by now (or whatever that meant at the time). However, I feel alive, free and so me.
7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?
That was a turning point for me. I felt terrible at one of my jobs, I felt disconnected with who I really was. I decided to follow and do whatever triggered the feeling of love and joy in me. It has been a wild, unpredictable, and full life thus far.
As soon as I made the decision to follow love, I drove to the football field where I knew my old teammates practiced and said ‘hey, I'm doing this again, for now!’ I wanted to practice doing things that make me happy and that was a great start. Movement, it's addicting.
8. Advice for other women?
Don't see that you are different. Play at your strengths.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
On mountains with no plan other than to keep hiking awaiting lunch or dinner.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
Hmm, so many! I love doing anything active and outdoors. It keeps me playful and grounded.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
What do I want to be when I grow up... I want to be able to bring people together in travel and culture. So far I intend to do that through eco-lodges across the globe. I'd like to build spaces that are sustainable using crafts not as a tradition but as something functional. To play to travel to create new projects.
As I mentioned earlier my journey has been unpredictable and mesmerizing. I'm sure the future holds something unknown; something magical as I couldn't have guessed I would be here, although, I always dreamed it. It's amazing as much as you may have a will or a dream, it still is so satisfying watching it unfold. I know it includes community, culture, playfulness, Earth.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Changes, fluctuating demands in business. It's not so much a fear when you start to see the potential. The fear of not keeping up with my concepts and not executing in time.
14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?
Not really. Other than exploring more during college. I would be a super nerd if I went back now. I'd visit exhibitions often, visit museums. Read more. Be more active. But who cares, I do that now. So I guess I can say I did come back to life and living it the way I like.
15. What inspires you?
Oh, wow, how do I say this. A little bit of everything: science, culture, stories, when all of these come together and when spoken of with passion, that gets me excited! I never know what will excite me, which REALLY excites me. There was a time where sound was an absolute obsession. As a result of this love for life, I like starting new things, riding the wave of my curiosities.
16. What are you hopeful about?
The awakening of a region whose culture has been silenced by decades of political distractions.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Fun alone time! Nothing is more empowering than knowing you can carry you. The world is better place when we work together in general, we love the spark in harmony with others but that can only be fostered with you as a whole. So working on that first sets the foundation for good fun in anything.
18. What is one (or more) quality you love about yourself and why?
My playfulness I would say. I like that even when things can be difficult I can make a joke of it sometimes and move on.
19. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
I can only tell her what she can understand at that time and that would be: stay grounded, stay close to the earth, she has healing abilities. Play, exercise. Take care of you. You hold the power to how you feel.
20. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
My current read is “Being Supernatural” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I walk around telling everyone about this book and the fantastic evidence he's put together. He talks about living your destiny, being a co-creator in your life experience and the power of meditation and empowering instructions on living a brilliant and powerful experience.
21. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?
At the top of my list would have to be my sister Dana. She has built a magnificent brand and business model that suits her and customers. She went beyond existing models and created what works for her as a mother and a business woman.
Another woman I admire is Ingi Alireza, she runs a school for special needs kids. She's fierce and happy. I admire her ability to laugh in stress, to keep at it, joyfully.
Finally, Maharani! She's a Doula. A scientist. A Community leader. A healer. Maharani has the most incredible capacity for love. She inspires me to connect with myself, to explore spirituality and to trust them. She reminds me to live my life fully. A simple example is that I used to write only in happiness, now I write in other less pleasant emotional states as well. This has helped my evolution of being here on earth. Maharani is also part of a homeschooling community. She has incredible thirst for knowledge and a curiosity of a five years old. Through her curiosity, I learned so much about my home land. The ways of the natives, such as using the stars to understand our seasons and other subtle changes.
22. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?