Sky is the limit for Jordanian mountaineer who is helping Arab women reach new heights

Dolores El-Shelleh: ‘As an Arab woman I always wanted to do something challenging.’
Updated 08 March 2018
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Sky is the limit for Jordanian mountaineer who is helping Arab women reach new heights

DUBAI: When most people take on a challenge, they usually start small before moving on to tougher and more demanding feats.
But from the start, Dolores El-Shelleh set her sights as high as possible, literally, by deciding to climb the world’s tallest mountain, Everest.
“As an Arab woman I always wanted to do something challenging and new from my perspective that will distinguish me among my community,” said the 27-year-old Jordanian. “Then I found my ambition. Mountaineering is a new trend in Arab culture. Not many women get the chance to do this activity and a lot of people are amazed that I come from the Middle East and I am in my 20s.
“I really wanted to step in and try something totally different, something out of my comfort zone and my family’s and community’s beliefs.”
However, not everyone was supportive of her passion as she set out to achieve her dream.
“I faced two different-sided opinions in my family: Those who encouraged and those who were against it, especially at the beginning,” said El-Shelleh. “Relatives have approached my father saying, ‘What are you doing, letting your daughter go to the Himalayas — it’s dangerous.’”
Women from traditionally conservative countries in the Arab world often feel pressure to conform to the cultural norms of their families and societies, such as marrying young or keeping their personal or career aspirations in fields deemed more “suitable for women.”
El-Shelleh is determined to break the mold and hopes to inspire others to follow suit.
“I want to be an inspiration and have the honor of raising the flags of both my beloved home country Jordan and the country of opportunities, the UAE, on the world’s highest mountain,” she said. “I want to make every person in my country proud, and empower other women in my society to have the courage to speak with loud voices and overcome the fear of resistance, no matter what their ambitions in life.”
El-Shelleh has already scaled smaller peaks in the Himalayas, and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, one of the so-called seven summits, the highest mountains on each continent. She has also completed a technical winter mountaineering course in the Alps.
Her dream of conquering Everest has attracted support from, and helped to inspire, women in her native Jordan and across the region.
“A lot of women come back to me and say, ‘Dolores, we never thought we would do something that challenging and now we want to go full force and try it’,” said El-Shelleh.
She also revealed that her dream is about much more than just the climb.
“It is not only about reaching the mountain’s summit,” she said. “It is the adventure itself and learning about the different cultures in this world, which will bring us closer to humanity.”
As she continues her training to prepare for Everest, the next summit she will tackle is Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. She will climb it with a team as part of an initiative for Jordan’s King Hussein Cancer Foundation, titled “From the Lowest point to the Highest point against Cancer.”
El-Shelleh’s Everest climb is scheduled for 2019, which means her training schedule is rigorous and involves some personal hardship.
“It takes compromise and sacrifice,” she said. “People don’t see the frustration in it — finding true believers to be part of this journey is time-consuming and a lot of people won’t understand that.”
El-Shelleh fits her strict training regime and schedule around her full-time job in advertising.
“I felt like I was going to quit a couple of times — and I still feel a lot of frustration — but I just keep remembering that I’ve come so far on this path and I also have a lot of supporters who are true leaders so why should I stop now?” she said. “I keep thinking why should I stop now if I truly believe that nothing is impossible?”
Perseverance is key to her successes so far and is, she believes, “something everyone should have to conquer any type of goal in life.”


Distracted biking: Dutch ban for cyclists using mobile phones

Updated 26 September 2018
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Distracted biking: Dutch ban for cyclists using mobile phones

  • The government is to ban the use of all but hands-free devices while cycling
  • Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands, where bikes outnumber people

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The sight of cyclists hurtling along while glued to their smartphones is a common one in the bike-mad Netherlands, but it will soon be illegal.
With a growing number of accidents involving phones and bikes, the government is to ban the use of all but hands-free devices while cycling.
“It is forbidden to use a mobile electronic device while driving any vehicle (including a bicycle),” says the draft law announced by Transport Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen late Tuesday.
The bike law will take effect from July next year.
Car and lorry drivers are already banned from using mobiles at the wheel unless they are in hands-free mode, with a maximum fine of €230 ($260), but the new law specifically mentions bikes.
The fine is likely to be the same for cyclists but the government is awaiting the result of a public consultation, Nieuwenhuizen said.
“It’s just as dangerous on a bike and on all types of vehicles as it is in a car,” she said. “The fact is that when you are on the road you have to pay full attention and not send messages or do other things on the phone.”
Michael Kulkens, who has campaigned for a ban since his 13-year-old son Tommy-Boy was killed in a bike accident while looking at a phone in 2015, welcomed the change in the law.
“I had to stop my car at the side of the road and the tears welled up in my eyes when I heard on the radio that the ban on the bike is coming,” De Telegraaf newspaper quoted him as saying.
“In my mind, I said: ‘We did it Tommy-Boy. We did it.’”
Cycling is a way of life in the Netherlands, where bikes outnumber people, with an estimated nearly 23 million cycles for some 17 million people.
But while it boasts outstanding infrastructure for cyclists across its flat landscape, the use of mobile phones is a growing hazard, with a smartphone involved in one in five bike accidents involving young people, according to the Dutch Road Safety organization.
Nelly Vollebregt, president of the Dutch road accident victims association, who is herself in a wheelchair after a bike accident caused by a motorist who was looking at a phone, said that 25 percent of the 613 people who died on Dutch roads last year were killed by distractions.
Last year the Dutch town of Bodegraven launched a trial of foot-level traffic lights for pedestrians to prevent them straying into roads or cycle lanes while glued to their mobile screens.