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Ismail Ingrioui, when tour guiding becomes a passion and a family tradition

Ismail Ingrioui was born and raised in the Atlas Mountains, near Azilal, where he dreamed of conquering the world. Today, he is a tour guide, an enthusiastic one, who traveled Morocco with tourist groups for years. In October, he won a bronze prize in London for his work.

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Ismail Ingrioui, a Moroccan guide who was awarded by the Wanderlust World Guide in London. / Ph. DR

Growing up, Ismail Ingrioui thought that the mountains encircling his hometown were the borders of his small world. When he got a little older, he realized that his village near Azilal was just the tip of the iceberg and that there was a lot to discover beyond those mountains.

Looking up to his older brother, Ismail ended up becoming a connoisseur of the mountains that surrounded his hometown and other breathtaking regions of the country. As a teenager, Ismail helped his retired father with the herd. For five years in a row, during the summer time, he tended, herded, fed and guarded a herd of sheep. But education was always a big part of his life.

«When I was young, my parents made the decision of moving next to the nearest school, to make sure that we could get the education we deserved», he recalled.

From a small village to a big city

After graduating high school, it was time for the young man to leave his hometown for the first time to pursue his higher education. Planning to become a teacher and return one day to his village to help youngsters, Ismail enrolled in university in Marrakech, studying English literature.

But living in a big city was no easy task. «It was a real challenge», Ismail told Yabiladi, recalling that studying in the city helped him rely on himself. «I always tell people that I survived university (…) my budget was limited and I had to work to afford my rent and expenses», Ismail proudly declared.

Indeed, in addition to his studies, Ismail worked as a construction worker for «seven dollars a day». During university years, he had his older brother mentor him and help him decide for his future. When he graduated college in 2009, Ismail followed his brother’s advice and path, going for tour guiding after failing his teaching exam.

«I wanted to become a teacher but when I couldn’t pass the exam I had to switch. My brother was already a tour guide and he directed me into that (…) It is always good to have a role model, somebody in the family that you can follow».

Ismail Ingrioui

And so it was, Ismail applied for a public tour guiding school in Marrakech and joined it for one year. His former degree helped him excel in his tourism studies. Equipped with his mastery of the English language, he secured a job right after leaving the guiding school.

Guiding, aka a self-discovery journey

«It was a new stage in my life», explained Ismail, who embarked on a new career, moving from a mountain guide, to cycling trips and then tour guiding. «My first job was mostly related to hiking. In the first four years of my guiding career, I climbed the Toubkal Mount about 24 times. I used to do it three times a week, even during Ramadan», he enthusiastically recalled.

«After mountaineering, I went for cycling in the Atlas Mountains. I did it for one year before joining a company that did cultural tours», he told Yabiladi.

Although it was challenging in the beginning, Ismail loved accompanying tourists on road trips, visiting several parts of the country and discovering more about his land and self. To the tour guide, doing this job is a never-ending learning process, a journey that has allowed him to build a welcoming and positive personality.

«Being in the tourism industry has allowed me to learn about my country and become the ambassador of it in front of visitors (…) but it also taught me how to remain positive», he explained.

To Ismail, guiding is not always fun and exciting, it is about «having to deal with situations», sometimes difficult ones that everybody would be avoiding.

Working in tourism for almost ten years, the 32 year old has been able to develop several techniques and tools that enabled him to be among the people awarded by the Wanderlust World Guide Awards earlier in October. 

Ismail, who currently works as a freelancer, was granted the Bronze Award alongside his colleague and friend Abdou. Receiving his award in London on October 2, Ingrioui was described by the judges as a «highly empathetic, knowledgeable and compassionate» guide.

Speaking to Yabiladi, Ismail promised to help young guides in Morocco benefit from his know-how and the experience he has accumulated during all these years. He is planning to use social media as a platform for the youngsters hoping to embark on the same career.

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