You realize how limitless the potential and determination of a woman are when you meet someone like Raha Moharrak, a Saudi stubborn enough to challenge the taboos against her gender and climb the Kilimanjaro, Mt Everest, travel to Antarctica and a whole lot more!
We took the time to meet with Raha in Dubai where she just arrived, coming from a training camp in Peru over the summer. As a woman who kicks ass, Raha didn’t lack the personality or the traits to live up to her own standards, and surely her mosquito bites all over where quite revealing of what she goes through every time to live up her dream and overcome every challenge she comes across.
She doesn’t strike you as the usual Saudi woman we all depict as being held in her house, or covering herself from head to toe. As we approached her in Dubai Mall, she was strikingly stylish and gorgeous, high heels, stunning chocolate brown hair, with an elegant composure and a great sense of humor!
Raha is the epitome of what we all want to be: someone who follows his or her dream regardless of the hurdles this might pose, regardless of what people around us think, and regardless of the size of the goal we want to achieve! She joined the advertising and marketing sector after finishing university, before realizing that paperwork and staring at a computer most of the day didn’t give her the satisfaction she was after. “I wanted to change, tried to find an escape, until someone suggested the Kilimanjaro!” says Raha. At first, climbing the Kilimanjaro is not the first thing one would think of to clear up his or her mind and experience some change, but for the Saudi woman, Kilimanjaro was the least of her worries at that time. In a conservative society where women are not expected to have great aspirations, she had no intention to fit the conventional profile of her female counterparts. “I am healthy, ready, why can’t I? Why all these restrictions?” exclaims Raha. Thankfully, regardless of the skepticism faced from her society, she found support and motivation in her family, although not on her first shot! “Having the idea is one thing, telling your father is another. When I told my father about my plans to climb the Kilimanjaro, he seemed puzzled, asking me why I wanted to live in a tent for a week and climb 5885 meters of rock! His first answer was No, asking me to leave such crazy plans until after I get married.”
Raha does not give up easily, and so she went on drafting a long email explaining to her father why he should let her go conquer the Kilimanjaro, an email answered three days later by an amazing “You’re crazy, I love you, Go for it”.
That short answer opened new doors for Raha, who went on trying everything, from Space Camp to the Arctic, Peru and United States training camps. “It just clicked, there was this revelation, it was what I wanted to do. I never felt more alive!”
Pushing her luck further, she went all in when she asked her dad to give her a present. Not a Porsche 911 or a new Louis Vuitton handbag, but the green light to climb the Everest! This time, her father didn’t play along as easy, fearing for the life of his daughter and requesting her to forget all that nonsense. “A No is an invitation to try harder, not an obstacle”, and so Raha went on buying equipment, attending practices and getting in shape for the big challenge she was so eager to overcome. When parents see such determination and motivation to achieve something, there is no room for refusal, that’s why Raha’s parents gave in, on one condition though: that she never puts her goal before her life. This is something we should all learn from! Many are those who dream of immense wealth, incredible pleasures and risky fun, and in so many cases trade easily their life, their health and their existence for something as mundane as material fulfillment. You can’t drive a Ferrari if you’re dead, you can’t enjoy the presence of a supermodel if you just broke your legs trying to impress her on that ramp; your life and your health are your first priorities, everything else is secondary!
Let Your Parents’ be your greatest supporters
“Any parents in general would have had a hard time raising me, but god graced me with a loving father and a loving mother who were open to all my projects!” says Raha before continuing: “So many people have dreams, aspirations, but few have the family support to take the next step. Perceive your parents as a constructive challenge, make their No mean an invitation. They say No, you say why. Don’t be rude to them, just ask for reasons and discuss the pros and cons. It is important to have a discussion and a conversation, otherwise, your family will become a major obstacle in reaching and unleashing your potential”.
Complacency is your enemy, so treat it that way
One major challenge in the Gulf countries is the abundance of wealth, and what that entails in terms of complacency, excessive expenditure and the lack of entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit. Raha exclaims: ”What is so enriching in going to Rome or Paris every weekend? What’s the value in that? Many people have the means to achieve the impossible, but many still lack the determination, aspiration and sense of achievement to bring about change. You don’t sit out to change the world; you get up and go out to live your dream! I always had this love for curiosity, something many of the youth lack nowadays. They are used to their comfort zones, they don’t push themselves anymore, and they end up falling in a typical routine. Instead of doing the same thing every summer, change it up, pick up a sport! You have too much free time, spend it less on TV and more on learning new skills. People don’t realize how much these small things can change your life!” You are what you constantly do, so pick wisely and make your routine a recipe for success!
Let your actions speak for you!
“You shouldn’t preach too much, instead, send a message through your actions and accomplishments, be an example for others, an inspiration people can learn from. To do so you have to go through difficult moments, bear pain; because nothing in life comes easy, otherwise it wouldn’t be appreciated. Find your own Everest and conquer it! If your dream is to master a sport, do it! If your goal is to write a book, do it! Have an ambition and work your ass off to achieve it!” Says Raha, and judging from her achievements, being a woman is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing!
“Many girls in the Gulf region rely on marriage to find happiness. My take on it: If you’re not happy, marriage won’t change that. You have to be satisfied with who you are, or work towards it. Being a woman is not a factor in the pursuit of happiness. Why are we perceived to be the weaker sex? I don’t get it… We’re all born with the same capabilities and the same anatomy (almost) and the same brain, so why do women feel inferior to men?”.
Raha continues: “Fight for your dreams, because they won’t come to you in a silver plate. It’s not enough to have a dream, you have to have the conviction to follow it and achieve it! Be aggressive in demanding you right to succeed, and don’t give up!”
“Life is a book, and those who don’t travel are still stuck in the first page”
Many of the great people out there have something in common: they traveled around and saw much of this world, so is traveling an important factor that shaped Raha’s success story?
“Life is like a beautiful painting, but it’s in black and white. Traveling adds color to that painting, gives it new perspectives. It changes your perception of everything, food, clothing, cultures, religions, style and fashion. Travel broadens your mind, makes it multilayered, turns it into a sponge and thus makes your ability to absorb new things possible.”
Travel is Raha’s favorite pass time; everyday she wakes up with a new crazy adventure in mind. She wants to take flying lessons and go to Australia and Alaska to finish up the last 2 major mountains left in her to do list. “I might just wake up one day and shock everyone”
And shocking everyone she did, even before coming up with her next crazy idea! A Saudi woman disrupting the fabrics of her society and the taboos it is built on didn’t go without notice, so Raha had her deal of heat and criticism! “I expected criticism, I respect their opinion, but I don’t understand it. It is sad that some people can’t see beyond their narrow mindedness.” As the saying goes, Haters gonna hate, and Raha is no exception!
To finish up, here are Raha’s 5 recommendations for our readers:
1. Believe in yourself and your dream
2. Have courage to follow your goals
3. Make your parents your source of support
4. Have a thick skin to handle criticism
5. Have faith in something, because faith keeps you going