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Raha Moharrak shows her posing with her country's flag on Mount Everest.–Photo by AFP
Raha Moharrak shows her posing with her country's flag on Mount Everest.–Photo by AFP
Raha Moharrak shows her posing as she summits Mount Everest.–Photo by AFP
Raha Moharrak shows her posing as she summits Mount Everest.–Photo by AFP

SHARJAH: Adventurer Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman and youngest Arab to conquer Everest, urged women in the conservative Muslim kingdom of the Gulf to “challenge themselves” as she arrived back in the region.

Her group of four, including a Qatari royal, a Palestinian and an Iranian, was greeted with cheers and garlands of flowers on arrival from Nepal late Sunday at Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

“It was unbelievable,” an emotional 25-year-old Moharrak, covered from head to toe in a black cloak or abaya, told AFP.

“I'm the first but I really hope I'm not the last,” she said. “I hope it awakens the intention in (Saudi) women to challenge themselves more.” Moharrak reached the peak of Everest on May 19, in a first for Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive and where their sporting activities are severely restricted.

She left her home in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on April 3 after a year and a half of rigorous training.

By reaching the highest point in the world, she said she has now achieved her ambition of climbing nine mountains, including in Europe, Tanzania, the South Pole and Argentina.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from Jeddah, her father Hassan said: “I'm very proud of her... It's great what she managed to tell people here and everywhere.” Moharrak, who had worked hard to convince her family to allow her to scale the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) mountain, is also the youngest Arab to reach the peak of Everest.

Her parents had “faced disagreements from family members and people in Saudi Arabia in general,” she told AFP. “As a Saudi girl, it's normal that I get negative feedback, but it was minimal and the good outweighed the bad,” she added.

Awaiting her arrival at Sharjah airport was the Saudi embassy's cultural attache in the UAE, Abdul Mohsen al-Harthi. “This is a message from a woman who wants to say 'I have reserved a place for myself among you men',” said Harthi.

“The message is for men in Saudi saying that 'I, a daughter of this country, have achieved top positions and am capable of doing whatever men can do',” he said.

Saudi Arabia, which implements a strict form of Islam and imposes segregation of the sexes, this month gave the green light for girls at private schools to take part in sport, but only under certain conditions.

Under pressure from international sports bodies, Saudi Arabia sent two women athletes to the London Olympics last summer. “I did nothing against my culture and religion,” said Moharrak, a slim and tall brunette. “You don't have to go against society to achieve amazing things.” Moharrak, like many other Saudi women, hopes that “we do drive one day,” but if this is difficult to bring about, “there are so many other more important things you can be great at.”

Her Palestinian co-climber Raed Zidan said he had left behind a political message on Everest. “We spent a long time on the mountain... We met climbers from all over the world,” he told reporters. “I told them about the Palestinian cause, about our prisoners in the jails of the Israeli occupation.” Zidan is only the second Palestinian to summit Everest after Suzanne al-Houby completed the feat in 2011, becoming the first Arab woman to reach the top.

With Moharrak and Zidan was Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Thani – a young member of Qatar's ruling family and the tiny emirate's first to make the climb.

Their Iranian companion, Masoud Mohammad, suffered from frostbite in his foot which will take months to heal.

All four, graduates of the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, climbed Everest to raise funds to help educate Nepalese children. Thani said they have succeeded in raising “one million dollars”.

Comments (13) Closed

Agha Ata May 27, 2013 06:15pm

Be aware, men. Women are coming! :) Women can do anything that men can do, except that men cannot bear children. Raha Moharrak, knowing what background she comes from, is the lady who inspires all women of the world. For every woman there is a Mount Everest in every field, and she can climb it like Raha Moharrak. Good Luck. (A male feminist)

raja hindustani May 27, 2013 06:56pm

happy to see women coming out from their home like this and achieving heights which is not normal in arab world.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain May 27, 2013 07:35pm

It is an excellent and inspiring news. I hope and pray that Saudi women will continue their struggle for equal rights. Mounting the Everest is a great and courageous feat. It is a great victory for the humanity itself, irrespective of religious affiliations

Shaukat Basit May 27, 2013 08:48pm

Allah bless her and all the Muslim women who want to achieve the affinity in any field to fulfil their dreams. Raha, I think you miss one of the 2nd highest peak "K-2" which is in Pakistan.Did you climb that too?If not, what are you waiting for,sky is the limit my sister, go for it and I am sure you will conquer that too with your unyielding iron clad will with the help of All Mighty Allah. Allah's blessing with you. Ameen.

someone May 27, 2013 08:50pm

Fantastic. Now only if you could drive a car in Saudi Arabia, that would be great.

Amna May 27, 2013 09:03pm

Congtrats!!!!!!!!! on behalf of Pakistan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ahmed May 27, 2013 09:09pm

Saudi woman conquers mount everest: I can imagine her maid carrying all her load and fixing all the ropes before her highness would first put on 2.5 tons of makeup and then majestically climb to the summit !!!

Challege Yourself May 27, 2013 09:10pm

Congratulations to Raha for her success in conquering the Mount Everest. She has proved that goals can be achieved with hard work, dedication and with belief in the personal power. I hope this event will inspire other young people in conquering the following wide spread problems:

  1. Injustice
  2. Poverty
  3. Disease
  4. Pollution
  5. Lack of Education
  6. Discrimination
  7. Wars
  8. Corruption

I believe that as humans together we can solve these problems. As the great Dr. Iqbal said, "Zara Num Ho tu Yeh Mati Bohat Zirkhaiz Ha Saqi"

HNY2013 May 27, 2013 10:11pm

Sweat! Who is next ? Seems like there is a long line ....women from all over the world, a 80 yr olf male from Japan then an 82 yr old from Nepal.....makes me wonder...and hope that hey dont get struck in a traffic jam up there!

Peace Only May 28, 2013 08:07am

Great work!!! All of you deserve a standing ovation, but special award should go to the Saudi lady. Before climbing the Everest, she had already climbed much higher a summit, which was undoubtedly, to get the nod from her society and country to head to Himalayas.

Ali May 28, 2013 12:06pm

Congrats to the lady. Im a bit wondering if it is really easy to climb Everest than K-2. I think K-2 is messed up. not many can do it.

Amjad Wyne May 28, 2013 12:39pm

Pakistanis should celebrate Samina Baig before they celebrate Raha - Samina climbed the Everest at age 21.

neluroman May 28, 2013 02:35pm

@Shaukat Basit: K2 is in Champion League, not in Common League as Everest. Do you want to send her to sure death? That is?