Dubai, June 20, 2014
Raha Moharrak is the first Saudi woman and the youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest. Being an accomplished alpinist, she has also summited the highest peaks in Antarctica, Australia, Africa, South America and Russia. Speaking of Russia, Raha is currently enrolled with Synergy University Dubai Campus – branch campus of the largest private university in Moscow, where she is studying in its flagship program the MBA Women’s Leadership.
Raha, what prompted your career in alpinism?
This happened at a time when I left my job and was getting ready to leave Dubai for Saudi Arabia. I was nervous about the change and I wanted to do something different and adventurous. I heard about Mount Kilimanjaro and it triggered my curiosity and I wanted to know more about it. I got a lot of resistance from my society and the people around me, which further pushed me towards taking the decision to actually climb it. I felt like this was something that I really wanted to do and it would give me a completely new and different outlook on life in general.
How did your family take this?
Just like any family, it’s normal for them to have worries and reserves about such a challenge, considering the nature of the climb and how dangerous it is. Add to that, the fact that I come from a very traditional and conservative culture, which added to the difficulty of them accepting it. But eventually their love for me over ruled their worries and they gave me the chance to pursue my dream of living adventurously and accomplish something that I know I would be proud of for the rest of my life.
What does it mean to you to be an inspiration and a role model to young Arab women?
Although I never set out to be that person from the beginning, I take it as a huge responsibility. I feel like it’s my duty to clearly relay the message of being brave enough to follow your dreams and if I inspire just one person, it would mean the world to me.
How did it feel to get a global media attention from the likes of CNN, BBC, Huffington Post to name a few, after successfully summiting Mount Everest?
Being a private person and somewhat shy, it was very nerve wrecking at the beginning. But after a while I realized that I had the opportunity to make a difference and that made it much easier to cope with. It was a great opportunity for me to reach out to all the other similar spirited women who have their own dreams and just need a tiny push and inspiration to make it happen. It was also a great platform to reach out to other cultures and be able to share my story with them as well. It was a golden opportunity to fix the misconception that a lot of people have about young Arab women and the restrictions they face.
Which other peaks do you plan to climb?
I set off to climb all the Seven Summits, and am now down to my last one, which is Mt. McKinley in Alaska, USA.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
It’s very difficult for me to predict where I’d be, especially considering a year ago I never thought I would be where I am now. All I know is I want to be content and happy with what I end up doing and if I can continue to inspire a few people along the way, it would be my ideal road map.
What were your expectations about the MBA Women’s Leadership Program when Dr Manahel Thabet – the Program Patron nominated you for a full scholarship?
I was totally honored and flattered to know that I have been nominated for a full scholarship! It was a surprise, considering I come from a design background, which is unrelated to this program. Nonetheless, I was very excited about it and wanted to take the challenge and enhance my education further in a completely different field. Having an MBA in Women’s Leadership will also serve as another tool for me to continue inspiring women around the world and speak their language.
With a few completed subjects so far, how is the Program adding value to your professional career right now?
Its making me an overall very rounded individual in terms of learning the ins and outs of a business, and learning how to manage other people positively. The course is very comprehensive and well-rounded in a sense that covers a lot of topics I have always wondered about. This, in turn, makes me more knowledgeable and tolerant of other industries and professions and gives me more strength to continue my path.
How do you foresee graduating from this Program will bring you closer to your 5 year plan you mentioned earlier?
Because my plan is a bit open ended and this program prepares me for a lot of different scenarios, I feel that it’s a great addition to strengthening my character and interpersonal skills as well as adding to my knowledge of leadership, teamwork, business management and multi-tasking.
Your time management skills must be very good to tackle alpinism, work and studies at the same time. Tell us more about that?
My years as a design student and a graphic designer have prepared me and taught me the right way of time management. It’s a difficult task as mountaineering naturally takes a lot of my time due to its sports nature. Nonetheless, enrolling in the course has further developed my time management skills and helped me in meeting tight deadlines and multi-tasking. Furthermore, the comfortable class timings help me as well. Being able to take monthly modules over one extended weekend per month is really great.
How do you find the group dynamics in the MBA class with women from very diverse backgrounds (entrepreneurs, public officials, private sector employees, etc)?
The diversity of the class only adds to its strength. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to meet and interact with different cultures, backgrounds, industries and mindsets that have all captured my interest in one way or the other. It’s also been a great experience to share ideas and collaborate with such sharp individuals from different backgrounds.
Lastly, any inspirational thoughts you would like to share with us and our prospective students?
Curiosity is such a powerful trait and we should always feed it and follow our instincts and find the courage to follow our dreams. Be curious and be open to exploring new challenges and never limit yourself or set any restrictions. Live and believe in your dream, and go out there and pursuit it.