Certified Saudi rock climber wants to give sport firmer footing in Saudi Arabia

Saudi climbing instructor Yasmin Gahtani displays her skills.
Updated 25 April 2017
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Certified Saudi rock climber wants to give sport firmer footing in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: After years of climbing in the US and Europe, Yasmin Gahtani, who represents herself as the first Saudi certified climbing wall instructor (CWI), is on a mission to bring the sport home.
Empowered by climbing since she started four years ago, 38-year-old Gahtani wants to spread the culture of this sport among women in the Kingdom.
“It is almost non-existent, especially for women,” Gahtani said. “It’s a sport that would be perfect for Saudi Arabia; would be perfect for women. It really empowers you. It makes you stronger … and makes you understand how much you’re capable of doing on your own wall.”
Since she got into climbing, her vacations started to revolve around climbing and mountaineering.
Gahtani shares snippets of her climbing experience on her Instagram account. She tried both indoor and outdoor rock climbing as well as mountaineering. But rock and wall climbing were closer to her heart.
Her followers started getting curious about climbing and showing interest in trying this sport. That is when she became aware of her need to become certified as she believes it is “a big responsibility.”
Chicago is where she went to pursue and gain her CWI certification through the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) in January. The certificate allows her to pass on what she learned and teach others to climb. “This is what I want to do. I want to teach women to climb,” she said.
Gahtani, who is a member of the Saudi Climbing Association, never went to the gym before she embarked on her climbing experience. She said the sport has encouraged her to strengthen her body to be able to give it more. Climbing made her understand who she wanted to be.
“I changed throughout my years in climbing,” she said. “I definitely was someone else, way different from what I am now.”
Gahtani has partnered with Waad Academy in Jeddah where she will start coaching women. When she was studying for her certification, Gahtani learned more about the importance of safety procedures and why each is required and important.
“I learned how to rescue people who get stuck on the wall especially on long routes,” she said, adding that “climbing can be completely safe if you do it right.”
Having a diverse base of climbing enthusiasts is what she aims for.
Rock climbing is for everyone as long as the safety measures are followed — including veiled women, people from different age groups as well as those with special needs.
“The veil on your head has nothing to do with not being able to climb. There are so many women around the world who cover their head and are still able to climb. But outdoors you have to wear a (safety) helmet.”
She is planning on getting certified to train people with special needs in the future.
Gahtani believes there is much thirst for fun sports in Saudi Arabia. Those goes in line with what she called a “health movement” that is spreading in the Kingdom. “There’s a whole health movement. Everyone wants to be healthier and stronger.”
Places to climb outdoors are still limited and not yet prepared for sports climbing. “Since there are more climbers now who are getting into this sport, we will be able to be funded. We need funding to be able to bolt walls in Saudi Arabia.”
Her goal in the next two years is to have more outdoor spaces to climb “because we do have the mountains but we don’t have the facilities to climb as a sport.”
Gahtani is also an independent baby photographer and has a homemade stationery line. “I have a home-based business and I’ve just added this (climbing training) to it. It was a passion and a hobby that I wanted to turn into a profession.”
She advises young people to turn whatever they are passionate about into their jobs. “As long as you have the passion for it, it will work and you can be very successful.”


Riyadh Eid festivities draw more than 1.5 million visitors

Updated 13 min 26 sec ago
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Riyadh Eid festivities draw more than 1.5 million visitors

  • The diversity of events the municipality provided this year offered plenty of choice to the capital’s residents and visitors.
  • The garden of King Fahd Library which received visitors over the three days of Eid witnessed interactive and entertainment shows.

JEDDAH: Riyadh municipality Eid Al-Fitr activities attracted more than 1.5 million visitors, residents and citizens over the three-day holiday.
The diversity of events the municipality provided this year offered plenty of choice to the capital’s residents and visitors.
The municipality hosted 200 functions in 30 different locations across the city. It distributed thousands of presents, balloons and candy to children to encourage them to attend Eid prayers and to bring joy to their hearts.
Riyadh’s Eid festivities in Qasr AL-Hokm included the Saudi traditional folk-dance show, activities and competitions for children, as well as folk arts and poetry shows.
The garden of King Fahd Library which received visitors over the three days of Eid witnessed interactive and entertainment shows, as well as artistic activities and sports competitions.
Riyadh municipality organized five theater shows for men and women, including two for men: Shekka Wa Noss, and Tersam Al-Wahch; two plays for women: Banat Al-Social and Umm Suwaileh Al-Sawaqa, and an open play, Al-Qarya Al-Maghdoura.
Riyadh municipality also organized three theater shows for the blind and deaf.
“Al-Qarya Al-Maghdoura” (The Betrayed Village), the first open-theater show in the Kingdom, was held in the showroom of Al-Jazeera neighborhood. It was written, directed and played by Saudis.
The municipality allocated several events and locations for the participation of humanitarian organizations by receiving them and setting private seats for them, in coordination with the Saudi Association for Deaf.
It also organized a special program to entertain women and children over the three days of Eid. The events for women included plays, free drawing and coloring sessions, artifacts and competitions.
Carnival marches were launched in the north and west of Riyadh, by 300 cartoon characters and featured the participation of touring folk groups, along with a solidarity march with soldiers, as well as classic car shows.
The capital’s residents and visitors enjoyed fireworks that lasted 10 minutes and colored the sky of Riyadh at King Fahd International Stadium, a location near King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and a location near Wadi Leban Bridge in west Riyadh.