Saeed Hijjeh, also know as Abu Ayman, is in his mid 50s and is one of the Masar Ibrahim’s most knowledgeable local guides. He has walked the entire trail in the West Bank, and is thought of as a role model for new guides. Before he became a guide on the Masar, Abu Ayman was working as a librarian at the Arraba Municipality, but had limited knowledge about his town and his country. In 2013, a Masar Ibrahim team visited Arraba’s municipality, seeking cooperation as they set about the task of scouting new trails in the region. Abu Ayman was appointed by the Municipality to be the local contact who would help scout the new trails.
“On the first hike, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the end, and I was planning to sneak out though an olive grove at about the halfway point, and go home. I am an old man, who is not in the best of shape, and my hiking abilities are not the strongest. However, I was wrong. I discovered in myself a new ability to walk, and I learned more about the trail and the Masar. Later on, I volunteered to join the team while waymarking the trail in Nablus, and again, I found it easy to hike along with the group because I was interested in the surroundings, and I also enjoyed being part of the team. I continued to offer my support and joined the way marking team in additional stages on the way toward Jericho. During this journey, I have learned a lot about other religions, the beauty of the area, as well as archaeological and religious sites that I had never heard about before. Of course I also gained a new appreciation of the diverse landscapes, fauna, and flora. In addition to the experience I gained while scouting, I benefitted from the Masar Ibrahim’s trainings. These courses include first aid, trainings on how to be a guide, and waymarking. I also received hiking equipment from the Masar Ibrahim project. Originally, my community did not welcome the new ideas that the Masar brought — they thought that I was wasting my time with foreigners. However, they changed their minds once they witnessed the positive impact on myself, my personality, and my family, as well as the opportunities I received and the financial benefits. Now, I am a vital part of the Masar, and I am always in the field guiding local and international walkers.”
Through this work as a guide on the Masar, he has also collected many stories about Palestinian heritage. As such, he is also a storyteller who brings traditional stories to life. He learned these stories from the older generation, targeting schools and university students, women, and the community’s youth based on contracts with MoEHE and MoTA, as well as other local NGOs which have become an additional source of income for him.
“Without the Masar, I wouldn’t be able to enhance my financial status, and I wouldn’t be able to afford university tuition fees for my four college-aged daughters. Now, I can finally say that I have found myself. Without the Masar, I wouldn’t be able to reach a point where I am a financially stable and well-respected person.”
Abu Ayman concluded his story by saying: