Gayane Mahredjyan is one of a few women working on the construction of a metro in Riyadh, capital city of Saudi Arabia. She was born in Yerevan, but grew up in Beirut. In an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am, Gayane recalled her youth in Lebanon and work in different countries.
Father left for Beirut, but we stayed because of war
My parents met in Yerevan where my father came to continue his education. They fell in love, got married, but after graduating from the university, my father failed to find a job here and was forced to return to Beirut. We had to join him, but the war broke out. This is the reason we came to Beirut two years after father’s arrival. I was six then. There was a war, and I entered the engineering department of the university. That meant my family had to sacrifice everything for my education.
I had to work in the office, but my life went differently
I was 23-24 years old, and I got a job in the construction industry. All around were men who came from all over the world. Imagine, every day I dined with 50-60 men. But, the day has come when I was fed up with this. And, I decided to do something else, I started a career in advertising and selling, but, of course, in the construction industry. I dedicated seven years to all this, I was working with13 engineers. But, in 2005 I decided to leave Lebanon, and my childhood friend helped me to do it.
I left Lebanon having only $500 in my pocket
I had obligations to my family, my father practically did not work, my brother joined the army, and I had to support my family. I was already 32 years old, I was an adult and could move to Europe. But, I went to Qatar, began to work there as an engineer at the airport. There I worked for 1.5 years.
Life sent me from Qatar to Abu Dhabi, then to Dubai
From Qatar, I went to Abu Dhabi, where the port was being built. The project was designed by us. There I worked for a year and eight months, gained experience and improved my skills. I was succeeding, and once they called me and said that there is an interesting proposal for me. As a result, I went to Dubai together with my friends. I was told that one of the best companies in the world invites me to join their team. I decided to stay and had to design a business center.
When I was 37 when I started learning French
I started working in Dubai. But in 2008 the crisis began, our client went bankrupt, the annual contract was extended for 2.5 years. I was working with the French. There was French speech all around me, and I was compelled to begin to study this language when I was 36-37 years old.
Life in Dubai was completely different, everything was fleeting. After two and a half years of work, I returned to Abu Dhabi, the project was completed.
From Dubai to Oman, it is like changing a city for a village
Oman is a very beautiful country. This experience was interesting, and the Omanis themselves are very original, friendly and hospitable. They are very happy that someone is working for them, and something new is being done for their country.
In Riyadh they are surprised that I am not married and I am working
I have been living here for 2.5 years. I am working on the design of a metro. Women here lag behind the life of 100 years, but in any case they are fighting for their rights. Women of Saudi Arabia have some other power, they are very smart. For example, 22% of ladies are economists, they are surprised that I am not married and I am working.
A woman should show her strength, and not try to be like a man
According to statistics, there are only three women of 200 engineers. When I took the first steps in this area, I had to work twice as much to gain a foothold in the team that consisted of men only. A woman should show her strength, something that she does well, and should try to become like a man. I have to love this work, to make sacrifices. There is a stereotype of women thinking: a man should take care of me, but this is an incorrect formula. Today, women are much easier, and it is not necessary that a man take her hand and lead her to a cinema … Now I have a boyfriend, I’m glad of that, I develop my professional abilities. If I stop working, I’ll become a housewife, then it will be impossible to find a person sadder than me in the entire world. I am not against marriage, but first of all you need to work on yourself.
There is more soul in Yerevan’s old building
I last visited Armenia in 2014 when I was getting my Armenian passport. This time I took a vacation and came to Yerevan. I would like to do something new here, because I see a great potential for development. I love old Yerevan. I visited many cities, but Yerevan has a special beauty, it combines old and new. However, it would be desirable, that there were no high-rise buildings, that preferences were given to 3-4 storey buildings in the French style. For example, in Dubai there are not so many beautiful buildings, there is more soul in the old buildings of Yerevan. We need to advertise our capital so that many tourists could come to visit it.