At the age of 25, just when her parents thought she should be conforming to the Saudi Arabian expectations of marriage and motherhood, Raha Moharrak had other ideas.
“I couldn’t settle down. It’s not something that I wanted to do, [it wasn’t] something that I thought was meant for me,” she says. “I wanted to do something that was out of the box [instead].”
That something was climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, with little training and no idea of what it would entail. Raha was ill-prepared, ill-equipped and not as fit as she should have been, but she did it, picking up a fresh appreciation and new love of mountaineering. At first her family wasn’t supportive, especially her father.
“Like any family, let alone an Arab family, they thought I was insane,” she says, laughing. But after that first successful climb, where she vowed never to be as underprepared again, she set her sights on the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on every continent).
Two years and several summits later, Raha became one of the very few people to stand on top of the world on Everest. At 27, she was the youngest Saudi and the first Saudi woman to do so. And although the moment was overwhelming, she says her greatest achievement to date is making her parents proud.
“Look, it’s pretty fantastic to climb the highest mountains in the world,” Raha admits, “But to be able to break the mould, prove people wrong, and give [them] a different outlook of who you are and what you represent – that’s really special.”
Her advice for us?
“Embrace fear, don’t make it your enemy. Always do what scares you. I’m friends with fear, so I make sure it doesn’t erode me.”