[Photos: Pakistan’s Samina Baig, 22 (left) and Raha Moharrak, 25, from Saudi Arabia became the first women from their respective countries to climb Mount Everest last month]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
A Pakistani and Saudi Arabian mountaineers made history earlier last month when they became the first women from their respective countries to climb mount Everest.
Raha Moharrak, 25, from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, successfully scaled Everest on May 18. A day later Pakistan’s Samina Baig, 22, became the youngest Muslim woman to reach the 8,850-meter peak.
Moharrak and Baig join a small but growing list of Muslim women to climb the world highest mountain.
In May 2005 Iranians Farkhondeh Sadegh and Laleh Keshavarz hoisted their country’s flag on the summit becoming the first Muslim women to accomplish the feat.
Speaking to The Muslim News (see Issue No ) Sadegh said: “Climbing Everest was very important to me personally. I have been haunted by this urge for the past five years. However, I also wanted to do it for other Iranians – and for Muslim women.”
Baig, from the small town of Shimshal in the Hunza valley in Pakistan’s mountainous north, said she hoped to empower the women of Pakistan through her achievements.
“Mountain climbing is my passion and to empower women through my expeditions is the reason. I am doing the mountain climbing to empower women,” she said. “The reason behind this expedition was to convey a message that if Samina can climb a mountain other girls can do anything they want in their life.”
The Everest climb was not Baig’s first significant achievement – after taking up climbing just three years ago she became the first person to reach the summit of the 6,400-metre Chashkin Sar peak in northern Pakistan in 2010.
UAE based Moharrak also became the youngest Arab to reach peak. She is the only female in the four-member Arabs with Altitude which included the first Qatari man and the first Palestinian man to reach the summit.
The Arabs with Altitude group includes Mohammed Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family; Raed Zidan, 41-year-old Palestinian real-estate businessman who is a US citizen residing in Indianapolis and Dubai; and Masoud Kalafchi, an Iranian.
Approaching from Nepal’s side of the mountain, Moharrak was one of 64 climbers who reached the peak after climbing all night from the highest camp on South Col, the same starting point pioneers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay took in 1953.
“The first ever Saudi woman to attempt Everest has reached the top!! Bravo Raha Moharrak. We salute you,” posted Arabs with Altitude on its Twitter account.
A biography on the expedition website said convincing Moharrak’s family to agree to her climb “was as great a challenge as the mountain itself”, though they fully support her now.
“I really don’t care about being the first,” she is quoted as saying. “So long as it inspires someone else to be second.”
The past ascents of Moharrak, who is originally from Jeddah, include Kilimanjaro, Mount Vinson, Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kala Pattar, Pico de Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl.
The month of May is one of the busiest on Mount Everest, because of more favourable weather.
Moharrak and Baig’s achievement comes on the same month that Arunima Sonu Sinha became the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. She is also the first Indian amputee to climb Mount Everest.
Sinha was a national level volleyball player who was pushed out of a running train by thieves in 2011 while resisting them. One of her legs had to be amputated below the knee as a result.