This year in May, 27-year-old Raha Moharrak became the first Saudi women to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain peak. Today, in the opening plenary of the 10th IOC World Conference on Sport and the Environment currently taking place in Sochi, Russia, Raha spoke about this outstanding experience and her views on sustainability along with IOC President Thomas Bach.
Moharrak has been an inspiration to many, considering her background and the dreams that she has fulfilled. Having started mountaineering only two years ago, the young achiever has scaled 12 peaks and covered six out of the seven summits in the world.
On how it all started, Raha said: “Oh, it was simple. Someone told me I couldn't do it! At that time, I was looking for something to challenge myself with, and the topic of mountaineering came up.”
That was the modest beginning to the making of Moharrak as a successful mountaineer and a role model. She decided to climb Kilimanjaro first, which in her opinion was the toughest expedition so far: “People think it’ll be Everest when you think of the toughest climb,” she said and added: “but Kilimanjaro was more challenging, given my sheer inexperience and lack of knowledge in mountaineering.”
Soon after that, she set another record when she scaled Everest over a period of two months: “Everest needed a lot of mental preparation. You know the history of the failed attempts and you face death every day, but you still have to move on right till the top.”
On her feelings when she reached the peak, Raha said: “At that moment, the appreciation of my predecessors’ efforts in preserving the Earth grew tenfold. Taking in the Earth’s glory I vowed to do my part, however grand or minute, in ensuring my successors will inherit the Earth’s beauty as equally as I did. Just as I had the right to access clean air, pure water, clean grounds and lush forests, it’s only fair to pass the torch to the next generation and instil in them that crucial environmental stewardship.” She added: “After all, it was this beautiful Earth that inspired me and intrigued my curiosity to climb.”
Evolving with each peak, Moharrak now dreams of inspiring young women all over the world with her stories. “You have to be relentless in being who you are and what you do best. Each mountain that I have scaled brings a whole new set of challenges with it, but they all teach the same thing: to never give up.”
She says that sport has taught her life skills that helped her to become the person she is today: “For as far back as I can remember, I always felt my best playing a sport, but little did I know that my love of sports would give me the critical tools that would aid me in my life: patience, discipline, teamwork and above all courage.”
Back at sea level, Raha is a freelance art director and lives alternately in her home town Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Written by IOC Young Reporter Sonali Prasad