Abu Dhabi: The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi on Sunday officially launched its new Emirati Tourist Guide Training and Licensing Programme, with a graduation ceremony held for the programme’s first successful batch of 18 trainees.

The programme, which runs for 11-weeks, is divided into both theoretical and practical courses on subjects, including the history and culture of Abu Dhabi, its main attractions, and managing tourist groups safely. Successful graduates from the course are given a two-year tourist guide license.

“Each year, millions of tourists come to Abu Dhabi to learn about our history, traditions and heritage, there is no better way for visitors to experience this, as well as the uniqueness of Abu Dhabi, than by spending time with an Emirati and seeing the city through their eyes,” said Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi.

“These first-hand experiences delivered by tour guides trained to an international standard, will result in positive impressions and an overall enhanced tourism and travel experience of Abu Dhabi,” he added.

Saif Saeed Gobash, Director-General of the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, said that having Emirati tourist guides would give visitors a more authentic feel for the emirate.

“An Emirati tourist guide gives an authentic tourist experience through an Emirati eye, it also gives visitors the opportunity of closely interacting with our society,” he said.

“The 18 guides who have graduated here today are now charged with an important task. They will act as ambassadors for Abu Dhabi and will showcase our rich history and heritage to an international audience,” he added.

Heba Bin Redha, who received her tour guide license from the programme, said that she was looking forward to introducing visitors to Abu Dhabi.

“I am already a certified tour guide in Dubai and so I wanted to become one in Abu Dhabi. I believe that we as Emiratis are the best people to show tourists around our country, to speak with them about our heritage and culture from our perspective,” she said.

“The programme was really beneficial for me as I got to learn a lot about Abu Dhabi as well as the many other aspects involved with being a good tour guide,” she added.

Mohammad Tarmoom, who also received his tour guide license, said the opportunity for more Emirati and non-Emirati interactions is what attracted him to join.

“I have talked to visitors who came to the UAE and they told me they didn’t interact with any Emiratis, so this presents a chance for us to change that, and to have more Emiratis interacting with people who are visiting our country, and even residents living here who want to learn more about the UAE.

“A lot of people have questions about our culture, our cities, and the way we live, so why not have Emiratis at the forefront of presenting these answers,” he added.

Shatha Al Hashmi, who also graduated from the programme, said she had been learning Chinese for more than two years, and was excited to manage future Chinese tours.

“Being a part of this programme is my small way of giving back to my country. I believe that everyone in this country in a way is an ambassador for the UAE, so we as Emiratis need to know about our culture and traditions and to then transfer this information to others.

“Even though I am Emirati, the training courses helped me learn a lot more about my culture and traditions. The programme also gave me other skills like presenting and how to manage crowds,” she added.