Raha Moharrak – the first Saudi woman to conquer Everest – is now taking on stigmas around exercise…

She’s no stranger to a challenge.

Raha Moharrak was the first Saudi Arabian woman to scale Mount Everest, and she’s also conquered seven more of the world’s highest peaks, including Kilimanjaro.

(It’s no wonder she was named our Emirates Woman Woman of the Year in 2016).

Raha Moharrak

But now the young adventurer has set herself a new mission – to get more women in her home country up and moving.

 

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Moharrak has embarked on a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of being active, holding talks at Saudi schools and during men’s forums.

“I’m really trying to change this mentality that sports is just for boys, sports is just football and medals and winning,” she told CNNMoney in a recent interview.

“It’s not that. Which parent would not want their child to grow up healthy?”

While it is not currently easy for women in the conservative kingdom to compete freely in sports, with exercise off the curriculum for girls over a certain age and women’s gyms few and far between, Saudi is making plans to change this.

Introducing more women-only gyms is on the government’s agenda, with authorities intending to grant licences from the end of February, Princess Reema bint Bandar told local newspaper Okaz.

The government is also setting up women-only parks, to encourage walking and tackle a growing rate of obesity.

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A recent Saudi Health Interview Survey, compiled in conjunction with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, revealed that 33.5 per cent of women interviewed were classed as obese, while almost half of women were physically inactive.

Moharrak, who graduated from the American University of Sharjah, admits she faced some resistance from her father when she revealed she wanted to get into mountaineering.

“The reason why I started climbing was because I didn’t want to end up where I was expected to,” she told CNN. “It meant that I did something that was different and I’m pushing mentalities. You won’t get criticised if you fit in the mold. You only get criticised when you’re different.”

However her family came around, and have supported Moharrak throughout her impressive career.

And the adventurer is encouraging others to follow in her footsteps, though admits it takes a lot of hard work.

 
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“I’m a desert-born Arab woman; almost everything was difficult! From training to gear preparations, societal pressures, and even visa applications, it was all challenge,” she told Emirates Woman last year.

“But it was worth the heartache.”

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Image: Raha Moharrak/Instagram