Samira Riads: Women in solidarity
Behind the scenes of the collection of Riads and spas which is Samira Riads, there is the journey of Samira and her wish for solidarity with women in difficult life situations. Samira has created the collection of Samira Riads and Spas nestled in the Medina of Marrakech, in the beautiful Mouassine neighbourhood, where Riad Princesse du Desert, Riad Zehar and Riad Rêves d´Orient are particularly popular with international tourists.
Here you will be met with generous service and the top of various moroccan hospitality; the big talent of Samira; truly an ambassador of tourism in Marrakech and a representative for the Moroccan women. Coming here is also a gastronomic experience. Apparently, in Trip Advisor, the Hammam Rosa Bonheur holds first position of all the Spas in Marrakech due to the aformentioned aspects.
In this article we will give you a look at what is happening behind these scenes. Hence, Samira has a unique and a typical story of her own. She has achieved more than most Moroccan women and men, because she has gone her own ways and she can be a living proof that challenges can be overcome. Samira is now tourism professional respected by everyone.
Besides she is a single mother of two children: Salma (14) and Mehdi (10), and from a young age she decided to help women who face huge life challenges. She grew up near the region of Beni Mellal, with six sisters and two brothers. As far as recruitment is concerned, she recruits her women employees from different rural areas; and now offers them much more than just a job. She also teach them to be self esteemed and free souls.
Samira herself had to wait until her eighteenth years to leave her parents home. This happened through a marriage arranged by her aunt and her parents. She was very happy to gain more independence. Born in April 1981 she had a tough childhood in the village. She flourished among the fruit trees, olive trees, vegetables and pets on the ten hectars of the family farm. When she was not going to school, she got up with the chickens at five oclock in the morning to help her mom and dad. She did not sleep much because she had a long way to school. «I only attended school between seven and eleven years (4 years of my life!),» says Samira. «It's not because I did not like school, but it was seven kilometers from my hometown).Without any means of transportation, it had to be 14 kilometers per day, on foot, regardless of the weather which sometimes had to be rainy or foggy and from time to time snowy. Sometimes, the river overflowed and made the journey as if going on a day trek in the High Atlas mountains. It's a pity because my curiosity predisposed me to like school».
Constantly, with the desire to learn and acquire knowledge, Samira went on her own ways to make up what was missed in her childhood. In her first job, she spent her wages going to night school and learning foreign languages. She is multilingual, speaking with ease in Arabic, French, English, Spanish and Italian.
Samira a woman who is not merely a staying home woman to watch over herself and her small family but has combined altruism and humanism at all times. She is a business leader who is full of ideas and has many projects.
Clin d’oeil: What was the first memory of yours at Marrakech?
Samira.- At the age of 18, after my marriage, I discovered Marrakech. Before, I knew nothing about it. I don’t want to be that original- my first memory is the Jemaa el Fna square. The lights, the smells and the atmosphere amazed me. I experienced an immediate heartfelt desire for Marrakech. I said, 'this is my town, this is the city of my life'. Still, at that time I was disappointed ( the arranged marriage was destined to be in marrakech but unfortunately not), because I did not really live in Marrakech, but in the village of Tameslhote, 17 kilometers from the Red City. Even though my daughter was only a 3 months but I had a desire to live in marrakech. That was my one and only obsession.
Obviously, it was a big challenge, how did you overcome it?
All my relatives told me that I had no chance to find work as I did not speak French. So, I enrolled at the French Institute (Victor Hugo) for a three-month internship. As I was not shy, I tried to talk with all the French I met, like the couple of Brigitte and Bruno whom I met one day by chance with my daughter, who was then one and a half years old. I invited them for some mint tea in my house. Brigitte fell for my daughter and asked if they could come back to visit her often. I liked this idea and I like this French couple as well. In the context of practicing my French, we became friends later.
Was Brigitte the one who gave you the step up onto tourism?
When I met her, she was building a riad and making round trips between Casablanca and Marrakech to monitor their project. Therefore,I offered for her to come to my house so that to ease the life for her and practice French intensively in order to complete my studies at the French Institute. These were the objectives for interacting with them.
How did this couple influence your career?
Between 2004 and 2009, they gave me a taste and love for this craft. They taught me the role and meaning of every detail. As it was an exceptional period for tourism (flourished tourism in Marrakech at that time). Thanks to them, I acquired a great deal of experience with international customers.
The early death of your mother gave you new burdens to take…
I inherited the responsibility for my family. During this period, I also gave birth to my son. I quickly lost the carefree period of my youth....
Have you ever thought of giving up work to devote the time to your family?
On the contrary, I realized that the work would be the only solution to all our problems. I asked my sisters to leave the village to be closer to me and help me raise my children. Above all, I could redouble the efforts in my evening classes. I was not happy to only speak French, so I followed intensive training in English at the American Center and Spanish at the institute of Cervantes.
How was the adventure of Samira Riads born?
In April 2009, my oriented self esteem project and being kind of a workaholic woman drives me to hire Riad Zehar in the Medina. Zehar means luck in Arabic (which gave me great luck) and this little riad with 3 bedrooms was the early success stages of my life! . However, my close relatives advised me not to take that risk. ‘I did not listen to anyone and I embark on this challenge’. Thus, I have grown a lot and developed strength in my convictions and abilities.
What was the biggest challenge in this new life?
Generally, I did everything: from shopping, cooking classes, cleaning and caregiver to dealing with clients and even I accompanied them in the souks. Furthermore, the most complicated challenge was to answer the many emails I received in English every day because I had not yet quite mastered my English writing skills. So, I relied on some friends to translate them for me (thanks to their precious help).
Was Riad Zehar quickly became a success?
Communicating to find customers has never been difficult. I had already been active on social networks and on TripAdvisor where the referencing has always been my strength.I have not been only featured in all the travel agencies and magazines, but also a large part of the publicity has been formed around my story and my courage. Many customers, particularly French, Swiss and Belgians, have recommended me to their friends. Finally, I had the chance to work with professionals whose work philosophy was closer to my own views on tourism, namely the authenticity, the generosity and the comfort. As well, I met Abderahim and Jana (Your Morocco Tour). I also met Nordine (Nomad Experience) and met Lahcen (Around Morocco). We have traced a beautiful story of solidarity between us, and even today, we still work together.
What has made you to go for another adventure with a second riad, Riad Rêves d’Orient?
Hence, opportunities have presented themselves to me and I always knew how to grasp them. After four months of hiring Riad Zehar, I met a French couple. They offered me to manage their beautiful guest house of six rooms. This has made me think that I should take the risk again and believe in my strengths.
How did you dive in?
Definitely, I even plunged headlong. It was a possibility of unexpected developments. I worked on communication and made the company. Only I had to find the staff . I worked with my sister Ghizlane, and Mustapha from Oujda, who quickly learned the doctrine. Moustapha and Ghizlane helped me in the customer service. And I had the idea to start searching for women that serves the interest of women solidarity. I recruited women from remote corners, especially single mothers. This has been a success to date because we have held first place on TripAdvisor for many months on. Today my dream is to help as many women as possible, who are struggling for their lives.