How a desert-born girl climbed the world’s highest mountain

1 / 4
Raha Moharrak on Mount Everest. The climber has urged women to listen to their hearts to achieve something special. (Photos by Ahmed Althani and AFP)
2 / 4
Raha Moharrak shared her one of a kind journey to Mount Everest during the last day of “Tanween”. (AN photos by Ahmed Althani)
3 / 4
Raha Moharrak shared her one of a kind journey to Mount Everest during the last day of “Tanween”. (AN photos by Ahmed Althani)
4 / 4
Raha Moharrak shared her one of a kind journey to Mount Everest during the last day of “Tanween”. (AN photos by Ahmed Althani)
Updated 28 October 2018

How a desert-born girl climbed the world’s highest mountain

  • Sharing her experience of climbing Mount Everest, Raha Moharrak urges women to embrace the concept
  • Over 17 days, Tanween hosted more than 40 workshops, 61 speakers, 25 artworks, 7 live shows and over 100,000 visitors in an atmosphere filled with creativity and awe

RIYADH: Saturday, Oct. 27, marked the conclusion of Tanween, Ithra’s creativity season in Dhahran. The 17-day artistic event started on Oct. 11 and hosted more than 40 workshops, 61 speakers, 25 artworks, 7 live shows and over 100,000 visitors in an atmosphere filled with creativity and awe. On the last day of Tanween the adventurer Raha Moharrak shared her journey of exploration as the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest in her talk “Sand to Stars.”
Moharrak explained how it all started with the word “No.” “I never imagined that a word this tiny would change my life this way and open so many amazing doors.”
She told the audience how she had found out about Mount Kilimanjaro, looked it up and decided that she wanted to go up the highest peak in Africa. “People’s reaction to my decision to climb the mountain was the final push I needed to actually climb the mountain!” She explained: “People pointed out to me that I couldn’t possibly climb it because I’m a Saudi girl, and that was it!” She decided to prove them wrong.
She decided to go after her calling as she knew there was more out in this world to discover. “My love of adventure was too big! I had something waiting for me out there. I can’t explain how I knew it, I just did.”
Moharrak added: “And that’s a lesson I want you to learn: To listen to your gut, to listen to your heart — it’s ok not to go with the crowd, it’s ok to be different.”
Her decision had been made but she needed all the courage in the world to tell her dad. “I called my dad and told him I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. I went rumbling on about all the information I knew, like a broken Wikipedia page. I was too nervous to stop.” She continued: “And when I stopped finally I heard it. He simply said: No.”
That did not stop her from trying to convince her dad. She finally succeeded because her love for adventure was far greater than her fear of rejection. She then talked about her first mountain climbing expedition. “When I went to Tanzania, I started climbing Kilimanjaro and reached the peak. I knew that this would not be the last time I touch the sky.” She has not stopped climbing ever since, and kept climbing one mountain after the other.
Moharrak described the moment she fell in love with Mount Everest. “I had arrived at Everest Base Camp and there was the same mountain I used to see in books, but this time I saw it with my own eyes. Then I started to climb the highest mountain in the world.”
She shared how she felt the moment she was going up the Hillary Step, which every person who climbed the mountain had gone over. “At that moment it didn’t matter that I was a Saudi and it didn’t matter that I was a girl.” She continued: “Nothing mattered other than the fact that I believed that I deserved to stand up there and that I believed I could get there. I was born in the desert and I had touched the sky!”
Moharrak concluded her talk with how she answers the often-asked question: Why would an Arab, a Saudi girl, attempt such dangerous mountains? “The truth is that I climbed simply because I believed I could, I didn’t care about being the youngest or first girl in history, I would still have climbed it if I was anonymous. Because all I wanted was to prove to myself that I can attempt the impossible and maybe even achieve it.” She closed by saying: “Please don’t let your dreams feel out of reach. If I can why can’t you!” Moharrak climbed 8 mountains in 12 months, including in Antarctica.


Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

Awareness campaigns highlight the importance of trees. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 February 2020

Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

  • The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year through destruction and tree logging.
Trees help stop desertification because they are a stabilizer of soil. In the Arabian Peninsula, land threatened by desertification ranges from 70 to 90 percent. A national afforestation campaign was launched in Saudi Arabia last October, and there is a national plan set to run until this April.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said that although natural vegetation across the country had suffered in the past four decades, modern technologies such as satellites and drones could be used to track down individuals or businesses harming the Kingdom’s vegetation.
“Harsh penalties should be imposed on violators such as the seizure or confiscation of transport and hefty fines,” Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sugair, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, told Arab News.
These were long-term solutions and they needed coordination with authorities to ensure warehouses and markets did not stock logs or firewood, he said. Another solution was sourcing an alternative product from overseas that was of high quality and at a reasonable price. A third was to provide support to firewood and coal suppliers.
“The general public needs to be more aware of the importance of trees and should have a strong sense of responsibility toward these trees,” Al-Sugair added.
“They should also stop buying firewood in the market. We can also encourage investment in wood production through agricultural holdings as well as implement huge afforestation projects and irrigate them from treated sewage water.”
The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000. These fines could not be implemented as they should be because there were no available staff to monitor and catch violators and, to make matters worse said Al-Sugair, there was a weak level of coordination between authorities.
Most of the Kingdom’s regions have suffered in some way from tree felling, and some places no longer have trees. These violations are rampant in the south and Madinah regions, as well as in Hail and Al-Nafud Desert.
Riyadh is the most active and the largest market for firewood. Many people in Al-Qassim use firewood as do restaurants in some parts of Saudi Arabia.
Omar Al-Nefaee, a microbiology professor at the Ministry of Education in Taif, said the reason behind the widescale destruction of the environment could be attributed to a supply shortage of imported firewood.
“Tree logging causes an environmental disequilibrium,” he told Arab News. “The Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water has launched an initiative raising public awareness on the issue and is asking people not to use local firewood. Several awareness campaigns have been launched for the same purpose to educate people about the importance of using imported wood instead of the local wood in order to protect the Kingdom’s vegetation.”
Official reports warn that the Kingdom has lost 80 percent of its vegetation and that the drop will have a detrimental effect on its biodiversity, as well as causing great damage to the environment.
The general public should use other heating options during the winter and stop using firewood, Al-Nefaee said.
Some local studies have called for farms that can produce wood from plants that do not consume too much water and do not affect vegetation, while at the same time reducing the pressure on other regions in the Kingdom that are rich in animal resources.
Falih Aljuhani, who runs a business that imports wood from Georgia, encouraged Saudi firms to import wood from the Balkans because it was a competitive market and the trees had low carbon percentages.