Restaurant Hostess, Hurawalhi Island Resort

If there’s a story that breaks stereotypes, it’s Rafaaf Wahid’s. A 21-year-old from Lhaviyani Naifaru, she joined Hurawalhi in May 2018 soon after finishing A-Levels at Villa International High School in Male’. At high school, she wanted to continue studying tourism but it didn’t materialise – not enough students chose the subject as an option. Fresh from school at Hurawalhi, she started out operating the telephone. But she didn’t have to stay behind the curtain for too long – before a year had elapsed, she was recognised by many guests and she became the island’s first hijabi restaurant hostess. Oh, and she has a little hobby which she indulges in whenever the occasion arises. Read to find out more.

Hotel Insider: You studied tourism in secondary school and now you’re working at an exceptional resort. Was this something you’d planned on?

Rafaaf Wahid: I’ve been interested in hospitality since secondary school. I know it sounds a bit corny but really, I’ve always thought that it’s a fascinating area of study. I think what really struck me was dealing with people of different backgrounds and nationalities. And yes, I wanted to work in a resort after studies, but I didn’t have a concrete plan as such.

Hotel Insider: How did your family react when you told them you wanted to work here? Were you at all worried they might not approve?

Rafaaf Wahid: Yes, at first I thought they wouldn’t like it. Because a lot of people believe that resorts have a really negative influence on those that work there, especially on women. But my mum was really supportive when I told her I was thinking of applying [to a resort for work]. She said it was up to me to choose where I wanted to work. And I believe that if you are disciplined, you will stay true to yourself. My dad works here at Hurawalhi actually, in their maintenance section, and I believe that helped as well [laughs].

Hotel Insider: [laughs] Yeah, I bet. How did you find a job here? And why Hurawalhi?

Rafaaf Wahid: I saw a job opening here and applied. I’m the eldest in my family so I feel that I have a fair bit of responsibility. And my home island [Naifaru] is close by, so if there’s an emergency, it won’t be hard for me to go back home. I really wanted to work in a resort in this atoll, so I was very glad when I got the chance to join the team here.

Hotel Insider: Any other reason besides convenience?

Rafaaf Wahid: My dad said this would be a great place to start out in hospitality. So, I thought, why not? [laughs]. I wanted to begin from the very bottom and work my way up. I was a telephone operator for nine months.

Hotel Insider: What was that like?

Rafaaf Wahid: I had to handle calls and help out at the front office when things got busy. But overall, there wasn’t much interaction between myself and the guests. I sat in the back office mostly. Occasionally, I’d have to deal with guests checking out, sometimes very early in the morning, when I was on the night shift.

Hotel Insider: And now you’re a hostess at the restaurant.

Rafaaf Wahid: Yes, it’s really cool because I get to interact with guests all the time. It’s what I had in mind when I applied for a job here. I asked them if there was a possibility of me becoming an island host. It was the GM who noticed me first when I was dealing with guests who were checking out. I liked talking to them while they waited and he picked up on that. And the GM decided that I could work in a couple of departments like housekeeping, F&B, and then become an island host. I’m with F&B right now but soon I will be an island host.

Hotel Insider: That’s pretty cool. So, what have you learned so far from this experience?

Rafaaf Wahid: I believe I have a pretty broad understanding of how things work at the front office. And I’ve been here at F&B for a few months now, so I know my way around this department too. And I think my stint at the front office is paying off – I have a broad knowledge of the resort, like where places are, what guests can do here and so on. So, when a guest asks me something about the property, I can help them out.

Hotel Insider: What sort of questions would a guest ask, usually?

Rafaaf Wahid: [laughs] They might want to know the opening hours of the resort’s boutique for example. Or they might be going diving and want to know whom to contact. And because I was a phone operator, I know quite a few numbers by heart [laughs].

Hotel Insider: That must be really handy. So, how do you see this journey of yours so far? Do you think you might consider a career in hospitality?

Rafaaf Wahid: Yeah, what I wanted initially was to see how it was, to test the waters. And if I didn’t like it, I’d choose something different. But I’ve really come to value the decision I made to work here, and in hospitality in general. It’s the country’s main industry and I feel there are many opportunities for me to grow. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I’m an unofficial make-up artist here.

Hotel Insider: That’s awesome. Tell us more.

Rafaaf Wahid: It’s something I’ve been doing since high school, I even have an Instagram page [@Rafaaf_]. I help beautify brides here, mostly at the spa and salon. Sometimes, I even to go to Male’ on off days for weddings. The resort is very understanding, though, and they’re very encouraging.

Hotel Insider: Yeah. It’s great when resorts encourage passion projects of their staff. All right. So, do you plan to continue your studies?

Rafaaf Wahid: Yes, of course. But for now, I’m just focussing on being an island host and once I achieve that I’ll concentrate on studies. I think people in this industry really value experience. And a working background in hospitality, especially at a resort like Hurawalhi, will be a huge boost to my career.

Hotel Insider: Great chatting with you, Rafa. And the best of luck with everything.