Game Changers The Embracing Our Past Issue

Raha Moharrak: Changing perceptions of Arab women one mountain at a time

On May 18, 2013, Raha made history by reaching the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
Raha Moharrak is the first Saudi woman to conquer Mount Everest. Courtesy.

Raha Moharrak is the youngest Arab and the first Saudi woman to conquer Mount Everest. On May 18, 2013, the now 31-year-old Raha made history by reaching the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

Originally from Jeddah, the avid adventurer, aspiring author, and graphic designer has also climbed Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Russia’s Mount Elbrus, Kala Patthar in Nepal, Antarctica’s Mount Vinson, Aconcagua in Argentina, and Mexico’s Pico de Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl.

We sit down with the adventure junkie and Dubai resident and discuss her future pursuits, her greatest challenge, and when can we expect her memoir to hit the shelves.

What’s next for you now that you’ve climbed the world’s mightiest mountains?

Right now, I’m working on publishing my memoir that I started writing a few years ago. It’s a big emotional mountain for me that I’m aiming to climb. I also want to continue my quest on changing mentalities and narrow-mindedness when it comes to Arab women and the perceptions about them.

How do you think your experience would have been different had you started your climbing journey now and not four years ago?

It would have been much easier, more acceptable, much less of a taboo, which is a good thing, because it means the times are changing.

With the changes sweeping through Saudi society, how are you taking part?

I do that through sharing my experience and encouraging others to follow their dreams. I speak at schools, corporate events, and different platforms, and I hope that through that, I help change the mentality and perception towards Arab women.

How has your background as an Arab, coming from a place where your ancestors survived harsh conditions, inspired you in your journey?

You need to have resilience and patience and know how to manage your patience to climb mountains. I’m naturally very stubborn, just like Arabs, and the fact that a lot of people said I couldn’t do what I intended to do made me want it more.

The greatest challenge you have faced in your life.

Convincing my dad and society, who are not very open-minded when it comes to such matters [mountain climbing]. But times are changing, and if I had started now, it wouldn’t have been such a dramatic thing. That’s a good meter to measure how perceptions have positively changed.

What is your ultimate fear?

To regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did is one of my fears. But my ultimate fear is boredom and being bored.

“But my ultimate fear is boredom,” says Raha. Courtesy.

Your most memorable moment.

When I arrived back at Jeddah Airport after I had climbed Mount Everest, the automatic doors opened after baggage arrival, and I saw my dad standing there and he was so proud. I could never forget that.

Your advice for people who aim to pursue their dreams.

Most people don’t even try something new or do something about their dreams because they are afraid of failing. My advice is to never be afraid of failing. If you failed, it at least means that you are trying something different.

When should we expect to read your memoirs?

It will hit the shelves in 2018 in both Arabic and English and in both print and electronic versions.

Manar Alhinai is the Storyteller-in-Chief at Sekka.