There are many burdens women face all over the world which aren’t going to disappear overnight. A number of different kinds of barriers exist across the globe. But it’s us who are supposed to fight them. We should live our lives as equals and demand equality, rather than wait for some mysterious emergency services.
An outstanding example of overcoming barriers is set by Raha Moharrak, a 33 Saudi female mountaineer. According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia is the world’s only nation that actively discourages girls from participating in sporting events. But nobody at any time could discourage her. She’s born to win. Not only did she complete the Seven Summit Challenge but she has gone far beyond. She’s touched the sky. She’s proved everything is possible.
When Raha turned 25, it seemed to be a prime time for settling down and getting married. At least that was what her parents were hoping for. But the young and vigorous woman came up with a totally different idea. When a friend announced that she was taking a trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Raha got really hooked on the idea. Then she discovered this was the change she had been looking for. Though, testing this vision on her family and people around her didn’t bring forth the positive feedback she’d been hoping for.
„It enraged me – she says – that the colour of my passport dictated my capabilities. It enraged me that my gender made them think they can tell me what I can and cannot do. How can they tell me I can’t do this just because I was born a Saudi?”
When she finally got help from her father who eventually relented and became her biggest cheerleader, it showed that Kilimanjaro might have been her initial goal, but it turned out not to be the last. On May 18th 2013, Raha Moharrak made history by becoming the youngest Arab and the first Saudi woman to conquer Everest. Soon, she was challenged to conquer the rest of the summits of the highest mountains – the seven highest mountains on each continent, the so-called Crown. Which, of course, she did.
Looking at Raha one might think she’s a model or a Hollywood star, but certainly no one would ever guess what she really does in life. With a charming smile and a soft voice she shares her story with us today.
KD: Raha, you have climbed the Seven Summits. So can you reach higher than the world’s highest mountain?
RM: The Moon [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to go to space. If you ask me in terms of adventure, I want to see the world and I want to go to space – that’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.
KD: Well, one day your dream will come true because all your dreams come true. But now I wonder how it was to be born and to grow up in the sand of Saudi Arabia and dream such an extraordinary dream as yours?
RM: Well, that’s true – despite the fact that I was born in the sand of Jeddah, I had a childhood that fostered my passions. I’ve always been very curious and very adventurous. My parents always called me fearless because I never found a limit. I always pushed and pushed. I did everything from scuba diving, to sky diving, to shark diving; basically anything extreme. At some point I will do a bungee jump, too! My parents always encouraged me. Well, I’m very lucky. They let us travel, travelled with us and made us experience new things. And although there were some strict regulations in the society, my family was very understanding and patient with many things. So I grew up loved and I had an awesome childhood filled with imagination and just happiness. Looking back I’m always grateful for the life I’ve had. I’m very, very lucky.
KD: As far as your career path is concerned, you’ve done Visual Communications degree from the American University of Sharjah and now you work as a freelance graphic designer in Dubai, doing your Masters. Is every field of education available for people in Saudi? What does it look like? And what is your own path like? And how is your own path like?
RM: Well. Everybody can get education in Saudi if they choose so. Men and women. There are no restrictions in terms of education. And when it comes to me – after graduating from my high school, I went to the university where I studied graphic design and I really enjoyed it. Afterwards I worked in an advertising agency for a few years. Only then I did decide to do something different. Of course, it depends on a family what type of job they would accept for you. Some families are a bit stricter but mine was always different, in a positive way of course [laughs] and they knew that I was also different so they accepted me being a little bit of an oddball.
KD: Apart from all emancipation issues, climbing may still be considered rather a male sport. So why are you into it? What’s the message underneath?
RM: Well. I started climbing because I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something for myself and I just wanted to explore. To go beyond the scope of what people expected from me. Yes, it’s a genuinely male sport, from this perspective most sports are genuinely male. For me – I didn’t look at it just as a sport, I looked at it as a way of life. It means to me a lot – to be adventurous, to express myself. So that’s why I started. And I always wanted to do something different, to prove something, to go beyond. And it’s not only climbing itself. Along with my backpack, I carry on a message. It’s not that I strive for fame, I don’t really care about people knowing my name – I just want them to know that a Saudi woman did it. That’s all.
KD: So, you’re not only a mountaineer, you’re an influencer. A lot of women, not only in the Arab world, look up to you. What do you tell them exactly?
RM: Well, that’s true. I’m pretty active in the public speaking circuit as well as in the social media. I want to show all women that we can do it. You should believe in your capabilities. We have so much to offer. We have so much potential. All we need is just courage. I’ve never thought that CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera would be interested in a simple girl from Jeddah. I think the crown jewel of all this is being able to have a voice of a generation of young women who didn’t really have a voice in the sports industry before. The best part of this experience is being able to go to forums and events, speak to young people like you, spread the word, and make s...
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