Aisha Mohammed Al Moftah

Owner of “My Trips”

Traveling alone as a women can be a challenging experience. However, with her initiative “My Trips,” Aisha Mohammed Al Moftah has made it easier for women to travel and explore the world by organizing female only trips that provides women with better travel experiences. Today’s interviewee is Aisha Mohammed Al Moftah, the owner of the company My Trips, who loved traveling so much to the point that she turned her passion for travel into a business. So, who is Aisha Mohammed Al Moftah?

People describe me as “Aisha, the one who does what she loves.” This is because all the jobs I have held, and all the experiences I have gone through, were motivated by my love of doing them. This even applies to my choice of major in university; I was in love with computers and programming, which is why I majored in Computer Science. Afterward, my passion for continuous improvement, development, and quality grew, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration, specifically specializing in continuous development. Travel is one of the things I love to do, so I turned it into a business. So, this is who I am, Aisha who ” does what she loves.

Could you tell us about your educational journey?

My journey was filled with challenges and lessons. Initially, I wanted to pursue medicine, but it wasn’t available at Qatar University (QU) at that time. Besides, my final percentage in secondary school didn’t qualify me to study medicine, so the list of majors available to me at the time was limited, especially since I was only accepted into the College of Education. Then, I chose to study Mathematics because I have loved the subject since my school days, and I saw it as a subject that teases the mind as if it’s a game or a puzzle. I was also happy that I didn’t try to pursue the medical field because I later realized that I was only interested in it because I was influenced by people around me. Most families want their children to be doctors. However, just as I chose Mathematics out of love for the subject, I decided not to continue in that major because I knew that I wouldn’t love being a math teacher. I noticed that I didn’t enjoy teaching when I taught my siblings, and I do not have the patience for it. So, I knew all of this would make me a bad teacher in the future. As usual, I decided that I wouldn’t walk a path that I didn’t like, so after just one semester, I decided not to stop.

At that time, QU had a specific system called the Parallel System, and whilst higher education was free for Qataris, the parallel system was not, I felt at that moment that there was still hope for me to continue in a major that interested me, and I decided to take a bold step. At first, I didn’t tell my father or my siblings about changing my major or about studying in the parallel system, I only told my mother. I was afraid of their reaction and how they might discourage me. I also didn’t want my father to bear the financial burden. I felt that this transition was a personal one and that I should bear the consequences of my choices. None of that was an obstacle for me, because I decided to look for a job that would enable me to pay the tuition fees. It was then that I found a job at the Commercial Bank, and so I joined the College of Engineering at QU to study Computer Science.


Why did you choose to major in Computer Science?

We studied Information Technology (IT) at school, and I found it a fascinating subject, especially since our education was at the beginning of technological development. I was amazed by it, and by emails and how they were sent and received. You might laugh now when I talk about being amazed by these simple things, because now even children know about them, but in our time, everything was just beginning. I am grateful that I was able to continue my studies in the College of Engineering and delve into programming. I graduated in 2007, and after that , I worked in programming and systems analysis. I was passionate about learning more about this field and learning everything related to development because programming means development. For example, in programming, we develop a traditional manual process and turn it into an electronic one. This development, if done correctly, contributes to improving performance efficiency and speed in institutions, and avoids wasting time and energy. I enjoyed all of this, which made me decide to continue my master’s studies in business administration and then I worked in quality management and continuous improvement.


How was your experience working and studying at the same time?

Studying Computer Science is not an easy task; it requires a lot of time and effort. Also, my job at the bank had its challenges, and it wasn’t a job that you could take lightly. At that time, I think I was living a very work-centric life, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my weekends. Although I mentioned the challenges I faced at that time, frankly, I enjoyed my time and never felt that I was too busy, as I was doing the work I loved. Some might think that I sacrificed my teenage years with university and work, especially since I started working at the age of 17, but I never felt that way. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Yes, I acknowledge that my life was full of work more than others. For example, I would see my friends gathering for chats or going out together to have meals and do other activities, but I wasn’t interested in all that and I appreciated and cared about what I was doing and never felt that I was missing out.

However, this doesn’t mean that balancing work and study was easy. As humans, we inevitably face circumstances that are beyond our control. For instance, I was attending classes in the evening, but QU didn’t offer many courses during that time, so we had to attend university in the morning, which conflicted with my work. Then the university changed our study system and removed the Computer Science major from the parallel system because the majority of students withdrew from it. so, the remaining students and I were forced to take classes during the daytime. This was a big problem for me because I had to choose between my job and my studies. I cried a lot at that time because this was my dream, and I didn’t want to give it up. Suddenly, I got the idea to change my job position at Kahramaa to customer service, which operates in the evening. My colleagues and managers at work were surprised by my transfer request, but when I explained my reasons, my supervisor cooperated with me and transferred me to the new department and things became easier. I believe that when Allah writes something for us, he also creates ways for us. I’m determined to continue, and I’ve always been like this. When I decide to follow a certain path, I won’t stop, and I take full accountability for that decision. Being responsible is something I learned from my father. He used to say: ‘If you succeed, it’s for yourself, and if you fail, it’s also for yourself.’

How was your experience working in Kahramaa?

It was an enriching experience. They provided me with learning opportunities through training courses in various areas. We also worked in other institutions, like Qatar Petroleum, to gain experience. There was a time when I wondered if I would benefit from these experiences in the future. Today, I know that I benefit from them a lot. For instance, these experiences required me to interact with people from different nationalities and communicate with them despite language and intellectual differences. This skill has been useful in my current work because I can communicate with tour guides in an efficient way, and it helps me understand how to manage traveling with a group of people who have different personalities. I stayed at Kahramaa Until my last year of university, and I decided to resign because I wanted to give my full attention to my graduation project, which was not an easy task and required a lot of time. However, my journey at Kahramaa didn’t end that year. I continued working there after graduating from university, but this time, as a Systems Analyst. Then, I was promoted to Senior Systems Analyst, and afterwards was promoted to Senior Specialist for Continuous Improvement. I continued in that role until I submitted my resignation in 2018.

What motivated you to pursue a master’s in business administration?

I have always been interested in self-development and growth in all areas. Perhaps it was my father’s saying, which I mentioned earlier, that had an influence on this. Also, I noticed that I enjoyed creating electronic processes for our usual paperwork. So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Lincoln in the UK to learn more about this topic, and how we can employ continuous development at Kahramaa. The aim was to instill and spread a growth mindset among Qataris, and this is in line with Qatar’s 2030 vision. This was the core of my master’s thesis, and thankfully, it was successful research. It was so successful that I was nominated for training at the Dubai Police Force to gain more knowledge and develop my analytical capabilities in the field of development and quality. Dubai Police is one of the most distinguished regional institutions, in both quality management and continuous development in work and performance, or when it comes to developing their employees. For them, the employee is a treasure, and working with them was one of the most impactful experiences I ever had. I was impressed by the relationship that employees have with their work and their never- ending passion for improvement and quality.

How did you establish your company My Trips?

The idea for the company came to me after completing my master’s degree, and when I wanted to start my own business related to something I love. Traveling and discovering new places are things I really love. Initially, during my master’s studies, I used to travel to new places and explore new regions and villages during the holidays. Sometimes I wouldn’t return to Doha on holidays, but instead would travel to new places. I would return only if I missed Qatar or had family events like weddings. Even then, I would return to Doha for the weekend and then immediately return to the UK. I was interested in seeing the world, starting adventures, and enjoying all the details of the beauty surrounding us. I used to post pictures of my trips on Instagram, but at the time it was nothing more than sharing with my friends and family. However, I noticed that people wanted to see more of these trips. This was when Snapchat was just beginning, so some people would ask me to document my trips so they could follow my adventures. This was what gave me the idea to make a business out of my travels.
At first, I needed to create a relationship with my audience, who felt like they knew me personally due to my daily posts. This was the first step, a step we call in the world of marketing: gathering customers then launching the product.

I started the project in 2016 when I was still an employee, so I would travel during the holiday season, about 5 – 6 trips per year. My main goal was to enjoy these trips, and not focus on making financial profit. Sometimes I would spend my own money so that everyone would have a great experience. What mattered to me was spreading a good reputation about the project, and that people would talk about the trip as a fun experience.

I still remember when I announced my first trip. It was a trip to the south of France, which at that time was not a popular destination for most people, because it was commonly believed that it was a destination for sea and beach lovers. Furthermore, it was known that France doesn’t allow modest swimwear. When I started, the idea of traveling in a female group was a new concept in Qatarو so most of my followers were anticipating the outcome of this announcement, especially with regards to the society’s reaction to such a concept. Unfortunately, only one person registered for this trip, so it was canceled, but I did not give up. I announced a second 9-day trip to Switzerland, and six women registered for it. This was the first real trip I did for my business, and I had named it “a trip to enjoy” because it would not result in any financial profit. However, the trip was well received by my audience because they were able to see how beautiful that trip was. I used to read a lot about the countries and their hidden alleys, the places that are not visited the average tourist, and I did not want to keep that information to myself, so I shared this information with the participants who traveled with me. I love taking them to these places that are like hidden gems.

How can someone register for your trips?

To register for a trip, they must contact me via WhatsApp, and I announce information about our latest trips through our Instagram and Snapchat accounts. To confirm registration, the client must pay the fees or a deposit. I have had bad experiences that have taught me more ways to protect my work. For example, some people withdrew from the trip last minute after I had booked the hotel and paid for the reservation, so I had to develop the terms and rules for the company to ensure the quality of the trips. Once all the conditions apply to the registrants and after they have paid the designated fees for the trip, their names are recorded on the list, and so on until the trip is fully booked and registration is closed. All the trips that the company offers are for adult women only, but sometimes young girls accompany us with their mothers. Many ask me if I could plan family trips or mixed trips, but I believe that at the right time, Allah will facilitate these new paths for me.

Since your work depends on traveling, how did you manage it during the pandemic?

That period represented a significant challenge for me; it was more like a shock, not just a financial shock, but also a psychological and social one. However, what bothered me most was some people’s comments. They would say:  “You left your government job, and now you have nothing, while we still have an income”. That is true, but that period taught me many lessons, one of which is that I should not depend on those trips as my sole source of income. Despite enjoying this work, I need to find a job that supports me throughout my life.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, I thought it wouldn’t last long, but when trips were canceled, countries closed their airports, and participants refrained from traveling or were unable to travel due to the imposed laws and fear of the disease, I faced a big problem with hotels and trip operators. Some agreed to postpone while others canceled without returning any money according to the contract between us, and the pressure on me was increasing. Many customers had paid me and were waiting for their trips, and some did not understand the situation. They would demand a refund in harsh and cruel tones, and I had to pay them from my own money.

All this put a lot of pressure on me, as if there were many things weighing on my shoulders: people’s money and their demands for it, and some were lecturing me for leaving my job! I didn’t know what I had to do. I told myself that whatever I lose now, Allah would compensate. Until I reached a stage where there was only a small amount of money left in my bank account, I decided to escape from the harshness of everything around me and improve my mood, and of course by traveling. I used the last amount of money in my account, and all I was thinking at the time was: now and the moment, and how to get back to my old self. I booked an apartment for two weeks in London, which is the quarantine period, and I stayed there for nearly two months in Britain and its cities. Later, I left it and traveled to Turkey, and thankfully I was able to manage all that with the money I had, and I felt that Allah has blessed my money. I knew he was always with me and beside me.

Turkey had not imposed any strict social restrictions due to Coronavirus, so I thought of announcing a trip to Turkey. My friend encouraged me, especially as I was burning through my savings, so I knew that at least I had to try. Only 10 people registered for this trip to Turkey, I usually don’t accept more than 12 people because I take them to some small villages with narrow streets so we can’t travel in big buses. The trip was successful, and I announced another trip two months later.

That’s how I got out of the Coronavirus crisis, but then I started working like an engine because I had to compensate. There were still hotels and people I was still indebted to for a while. This is what made me take many consecutive trips to make up for the loss, and thankfully I got out of this crisis, and I decided to stop for a while. I have become stronger and more knowledgeable, and I am not afraid of any sudden circumstances that might occur.

How did your family and friends react to your business venture?

I expected that my brothers and father would not support the idea, but I was surprised by their encouragement. I was especially worried about telling my father, but he smiled when I told him about the idea, as if he wasn’t surprised by my crazy ideas. His smile was a sign of approval for me. When it comes to the women in my family, however, they were surprised and somewhat skeptical about the success of the idea, wondering if society would accept it, and if any woman would register for these trips. Of course, the situation changed, and these women became my first customers!

The idea of the company came from my love of traveling and reading about different cultures and their histories. What’s funny is that I used to collect a lot of information about the country, write it down, and read it to my family when we traveled, long before “My Trips” project started. I noticed that they would get bored after a few minutes of me giving them information. From here, I gained many skills in managing group trips, including knowing what to talk about and how much to say, and whether they were interested in the topic or just wanted general information. I benefited a lot from my family, and every criticism I received from them it helped me in many ways. And even if it didn’t benefit me, it gave me strength. I noticed that a few of my relatives were somewhat embarrassed by my work in the beginning and were surprised by the idea of me taking people to travel. I don’t know exactly what they found embarrassing, but everything has changed now. Now, they are impressed by me, and they strongly encourage my work! That’s because they’re my family, close to me, and I can listen to their opinions.

I’ll be honest, it bothers me when I receive annoying comments on social media from people who haven’t tried group travel. To be more precise, they haven’t tried traveling with “My Trips”, but because of my stubbornness, I listen to all their opinions and keep going without showing that their words affect me. However, to this day, I still get annoyed sometimes by some of the comments I receive but I am not affected by them as I was in the past. I think I will waste my time if I let those comments affect me. However, in the end, I am human, and sometimes I wonder why was that said to me? Often, I justify some actions of these people, that they may not mean what I understood from it, and over time I forget the matter. No matter how much pain their bad words might cause me, I am not like the old times at all, I am much better and stronger. Also, I am honest with myself, and I am satisfied with the person that I am.

Could you tell us about your first trip?

I would like to talk about the women who traveled with me for the first time, who are outside the family framework. They are usually hesitant at first, especially when it’s their first time traveling. Some of these women wanted me to explain the idea of group travel to their husbands, because some of them needed more reassurance about the idea of their wife traveling with a stranger. However, after my explanation, I found them convinced by the idea. What impressed me is that in recent years, some fathers have been recommending my services to their daughters. I feel that there is trust between me and the people, possibly because I am transparent, so people know that everything I do is suitable for them. They allow their daughters to travel with me, and I receive some beautiful comments that I am doing great work, and I am very happy with that.

What are some of the most memorable experiences you had during the trips you’ve taken?

It’s hard for me to pick one due to their abundance, and because each trip was special in its own way. The trip to Peru was memorable because I had always wanted to travel to South America. I also remember the Maldives trip, which I expected to be boring, but I enjoyed it a lot. Recently, I’ve started to love traveling to countries in the Arab world, especially since we live in a region that is rich in culture, authenticity, traditions, and history. Unfortunately, these countries are not marketed as tourist destinations. For example, Iraq is overlooked as a tourist destination due to its circumstances. However, when talking to its people, we can sense the richness and authenticity of Iraq’s history.

Other than the destination, it is the group who makes the trip memorable like the trip we took to Bosnia. The group that travelled there was full of my life. One of the amusing things I remember from that trip is a woman called Fatima who insisted on getting some watermelon during the trip. once she got the watermelon she went to the river and put the watermelon in the water to cool it down, then she cut it for us, and we ate it by the river while dipping our feet in the water, like a scene out of a movie.

Sometimes we may have experiences that we can describe as strange, such as our trip to Salalah in Oman, which was full of surprises. Salalah is a completely different world, and the mountain people in the region have their own customs, traditions, and clothing. We got to see the caves and experience a typical life of the people in Salalah. Some of them have only recently moved to live in the city in the 90s. They differ in customs, traditions, and the diversity of their languages, even in their dealings with each other, the interaction of husbands with their wives, and children with their mother. The women there are pampered, and the men are the ones who milk the animals, cook, and work. We were very amazed at everything we saw, Salalah was truly astonishing.

In another trip, I saw how humans can be inhumane. For example, on a trip to South Africa we saw explicit and clear racism everywhere. For example, white people live in clean and modern areas, unlike the area where the indigenous people live. Racism is apparent even in their passports, categorizing humans according to skin color. The South African woman we spoke to talked about the categorization as if it was something ordinary, while we were in shock the ones provoked by this topic.

How do you try to cater to people’s different tastes when it comes to traveling?

People are motivated to travel for different reasons, so I make sure that the locations for the trips are diverse. I choose some locations for relaxation and rest, like the Maldives, or location to enjoy nature, such as traveling to Croatia and Slovenia. However, on all trips, I dedicate one day for rest, and I also make time for shopping on every trip.

As for choosing countries and activities, I use myself an example to determine what others may enjoy or not. I would never pick a location that I myself do not want to visit. I believe that one must take care of themselves before anything else and not impose a trip or anything on themselves. I indulge myself and I don’t mind paying more and booking a private suite for myself. If I do not take care of myself, appreciate, and pamper myself, I won’t be able to take care of others. If something were to happen, God forbid, everyone would expect Aisha to help them. I don’t want to disappoint them, so I try my best, and my efforts are always accompanied by kindness to myself, and others and I believe I deserve my attention and care.

Have you faced any challenges?

I faced a challenge and a tough time that had a significant impact on my company when I was still an employee in Kahramaa. During the first two years of starting the company, my father passed away, which affected me a lot, and I went through a tough period afterwards. I used to drive to work, and sit in my car, not wanting to go into the office, as if I hated the place. I don’t know exactly what made me feel like this, but I knew it was related to my father’s death. I felt that I wasn’t giving the job its due, because I was incapable of doing so. Even if I went to work, I would close the office door and cry. Yet, I was very normal at home, so I felt that I needed to take some time away from work. Here, I decided to apply for unpaid leave, but it was not approved. Someone suggested to me to go to a doctor and get a report about my mental state after my father’s death to get approval. so. I went to the doctor, and she wrote me a leave for only a few days, but I knew that I didn’t need just a few days off, but rather needed to get out of “something”, and I didn’t know how. My superior at work did not approve of it and acted as if it wasn’t their problem. I felt they were not seeing me as a human being, especially since I had been loyal to them for a long time, even before I graduated from university. I don’t mean any disrespect to them, but when all this happened, I told myself: “You have your own business, you can resign from this job”. So, I took a bold step and resigned. Everyone was telling me: Are you crazy to submit your resignation? What about your studies that you studied hard for? What about the training courses that you attended? Are you sure about the stability of your income from your trips? To me, it wasn’t about all that. If I continued in that job, it would be an injustice to myself and an injustice to the place itself, and I could go back to work if I felt like I was ready, but for now, I needed to get out. I left the job and focused only on my business but leaving the job had improved my mental and physical state a lot. It is not like everything was perfect, but overall, it was a turning point for me that made me stronger. In the past, I always felt that what I do is ordinary no matter what I do, and I saw some employees talking about their achievements, while I never talked about what I do. I reminded myself of a verse in Qura’n: And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds (Al-Tawbah, 105), but if I continued reminding myself with the rest of the verse, I would find that is says: (and the believers) immediately after it, so I was supposed to work to let Allah, and this believers, but I understood this later, and I realized that God gave me the ability to talk and gave me this phone and I have to talk about what I do. The Quran carries a lot of meanings, and I may not memorize the verses, but the meanings remain in my mind. When Allah created the sky and adorned it with stars and made it missiles for the devils, these stars, their mission is to stone the devils, but Allah, is gentle and kind, because he also made those stars to decorate the sky so people can enjoy the view. And this is how we should strive to perform our work to our best abilities.

What is your advice for women in Qatar?

First, I would like to express my impression of Qatari women. The impression that I developed observing the Qatari women who participated in my trips was that they are quiet, formal, and rarely do they engage with others in the different events, probably out of fear of public opinion. However, this impression has slightly changed over time as I have observed their bravery shine during any stressful event; something that I witnessed many times. For instance, once I fell in a bathroom, and all of a sudden, one of the Qatari women, who was previously quiet and shy, rushed over, removed her jacket, and began administering first aid even before the arrival of medical services! I was amazed by her quick response and her ability to carry out first aid. I was amazed by   her transformation from her usual calm demeanor to bravery and control during that situation. Such events made me feel like I had unfairly judged Qatari women.

I advise Qatari women to turn their passion into a project. If it is possible to bring your passions to life, whether it’s a business activity or something else, then strive to achieve it. Every new path we tread will open doors to other paths. Do not resign from your job when you are first starting your project. Instead, I would advise starting your project, keep all of life’s surprises in mind. Always listen to the voice of love inside you, it’s your guide to living life in a way that makes you happy.

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Published on 22/06/2023

  • All Pictures were provided to us by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.
  • Interview was edited to improve clarity and readability.