Egypt’s first hearing impaired flight attendants work flight to Khartoum

Two Egyptian women have become the Middle East's first hearing impaired flight attendants thanks to an initiative called Humanitarian Flights.

al-monitor Hajer Jamal and Nourhan Saad, Egypt's first flight attendants with hearing impairment, pose for a thank-your photo for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on a Nov. 5 flight from Cairo to Khartoum arranged by an advocacy initiative called Humanitarian Flights.  Photo by Humanitarian Flights.

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egyptian society, disability, disabled, air travel, flight

Dec 8, 2020

CAIRO — Nourhan Saad, 22, and Hajer Jamal, 25, became the first flight attendants with hearing impairment to work in the Arab world on a Nov. 5 flight from Cairo to Khartoum.

Saad and Jamal were chosen for the unique experience as part of an initiative called Humanitarian Flights that raises awareness in the world and the Middle East in particular of the rights of people with disabilities. In December last year, another flight from Cairo and Khartoum featured a flight attendant with Down syndrome. Both flights came ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Saad and Jamal received training with the regular flight attendant crew of the Sudanese Badr Airlines and as the flight took off from Cairo International Airport, they gave a unique welcome for the passengers, performing the song "Helwa Ya Baladi" by Dalida in sign language.

Reda Abdel Aziz, the regional director of the Cairo-based International Center for Disability Sciences (ICDS), a co-sponsor of Humanitarian Flights, told Al-Monitor that the initiative's successful second flight reflects the great interest of the Egyptian state in the rights of people with disabilities.

Samar Abdel Aziz, ICDS executive director and the international coordinator of Humanitarian Flights, told Al-Monitor that the Nov. 5 flight was the first of its kind in the Arab World. He said the crew sent a thank-you telegram from the sky to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in recognition of his great efforts in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and improving their lives since he took office in Egypt. Sisi declared 2018 to be the year for persons with disabilities.

Othman al-Ahmar, director of marketing, sales and public relations at Badr Airlines, told Al-Monitor that the ICDS cooperated with Badr Airlines to develop the idea. Ahmar added that Badr Airlines operated the flight out of regard and appreciation for people with disabilities.

Saad, who graduated from Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor, “I suffer from hearing impairment. I learned about the Humanitarian Flights competition through Facebook, applied and got accepted. The trip was a pleasant surprise and I am happy I was chosen for this experience.”

She added, “Working as a flight attendant has been my childhood dream ever since I went for Umrah to Saudi Arabia with my mother and I saw the flight attendants in action on the plane.”

Saad noted, “The flight was an opportunity to make my dreams come true. I did my best to meet all the professional standards and I succeeded. The experience began at Cairo International Airport, where I was trained by Badr Airlines and the ICDS on how to deal with passengers.”

She continued, “I communicated with the passengers on the plane and they were very pleased with Jamal and me. Only a Sudanese passenger objected when he found out I was hard of hearing and refused to speak with me. But when he was informed about the project, he was very happy to cooperate. My dream became a reality with this flight and ever since we landed, I have been looking for a permanent job as a flight attendant.”

Jamal, a graduate of Al-Alsun College who now studies at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, told Al-Monitor, “I was contacted by the ICDS to apply to participate in the Humanitarian Flights and I was selected. The trip was beautiful and I was happy to be part of it.”

She added, “I have always wanted to become an actress or a television host. I have been in two plays and a movie. I have performed "Tahya Misr" in sign language as well as other songs. I hope I could one day perform alongside stars like Adel Imam and Mohamed Sobhi.”

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