All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien



May 08, 2019

The Dream of Everest: Four Arab Women Challenge Social Expectations

Pushing back against social norms, some with family resistance, some with support, these women from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Oman are proving that social expectations do not count for anything.


Sean Verity

Most recent update: May 1st 2019 | The Khumbu Icefall

This article will update with every video dispatch that we receive from the expedition. All of the despatches are courtesy of award-winning filmmaker Elia Saikaly, and are a build up to a feature-length documentary due to be released towards the end of 2019.

Why can’t a little girl from the Arab world, who’s always wanted to go to the moon, have that dream and believe that she can actually pursue it? We want Arab women to toss all those excuses out the window; I can’t, I don’t want to, nobody is going to support me. We’re here, we’re standing on the roof of the world, one hand, one heart. If we can do it, you can do it.

Nadhirah al Harthy from Oman, Mona Sharab from Saudi Arabia, Joyce Azzam and Nelly Attar from Lebanon have set themselves the ultimate challenge.  During the Spring of 2019, these four Arab women will attempt to climb to the summit of Everest, something that has never been achieved before.

With the prominence of the #MeToo, and wider female independence movement, there has never been a better time to tell the story of these four women who intend to break down barriers that some expect to confine them. For some, they will be the first to summit Everest, for others, they’re climbing for cause, but they all share the same goal of empowering Arab women. “If we can do it, you can do it.”


The Outdoor Journal had the opportunity to speak with Nadhirah Al Harthy before she left her native Oman. Read the full story here.

Nadhirah will become the first woman from Oman to climb Everest, however, that’s just the beginning of her story. Oman is a country where mountaineering falls outside the traditional gender purview of women, and much of Nadhirah’s training had to be carried out in secret. It was only a few weeks before she left for the Himalaya, that Nadhirah broke the news to her family from fear of their disappointment. Fortunately, their fears lay solely in the risks associated with the ascent, not the gender-defying pursuit.

“Growing up in a conservative environment made me want to break the mould and box Arab women are put into. After a difficult divorce and almost losing myself to the cultural pressures, I found strength amongst the world’s tallest peaks. It seems crazy to others who wear the Hijab like myself, but I learned to believe in my capabilities and to show others that their dreams are possible too.”


Mona co-founded ‘The Empowerment Hub,’ a grassroots initiative that focuses on fitness and health for youth and women in the Kingdom back in 2014. Each event/campaign was for a cause related to well being, be it physical or mental. Driven by change, ‘The Hub’ was the unheard voice that echoed a basic right. Physical Education for females in the public system has come a long way. The Hub’s mission was to revolutionize what females and youth feed their minds, bodies and souls.

“If not for my generation, then for the generations to come. Together we will shift perceptions and shatter stereotypes. Here’s to becoming more accepting and tolerant. To quenching thirsty minds who have been forced to flee for safety. Let’s move some mountains and make some waves.”


Joyce Azaam

Joyce begins her pursuit of summiting the world’s tallest mountain with plenty of experience behind her. This 34-year old woman has climbed over 26 mountains around the world on six continents. Everest is the last of her Seven Summits challenge. However, Joyce also has a story that has so much to it. There was pain, doubt, and both cultural and social pressure to battle against along the way. Joyce recently summited the highest peak in Antarctica which garnered her the attention and support of the Lebanese Prime Minister and the President himself.

“Arab women and girls are not given permission to dream. I had a dream that should not be mine: my PhD & my ‘7 Summits’ . I am climbing Everest to complete my dream for all of those women out there who are told they shouldn’t have one.”


Nelly Attar

Fitness shouldn’t be a problem for Nelly, having recently made a shift from a full-time psychology and life coaching profession, to pursue her passion for fitness and sports. This is supplemented with twelve climbing expeditions, three global marathons, one ultra-trail marathon, and two half Ironman races (triathlons). Nelly is now a recognized fitness ambassador, trainer and healthy living advocate, contributing significantly to the transformation of the sporting landscape across the Middle East.

“Sports was my gateway to create a positive impact for people in Saudi Arabia, and beyond. I’ve switched careers, taken my own athletic activities to another level, and regularly work on numerous initiatives to promote and enable more and more people to get active across the Middle East. Movement is essential for life, and regular physical activity does wonders for our physical and mental health. Let’s MOVE the world!

Dispatch #1: Ready
Date: April 16th 2019

The team of Arab women climbing Everest depart Kathmandu to Lukla where their journey to Mt. Everest and their climb to the top of the world begins.

Dispatch #2: The Memorial Site – Chukpa Lare
Date: April 18th 2019

Before reaching Everest basecamp, the team of Arab women stop through the area known as Chukpa Lare. It is a memorial ground built in honour of both Sherpa and Foreign climbers who lost their lives on Everest.

Dispatch #3: The Puja
Date: April 19th 2019

The team had their Puja ceremony at Everest Basecamp, the spiritual blessing performed by a Lama, a ritual that all who attempt Everest partake in before stepping foot into the Khumbu Icefall.

Dispatch #4: Icefall
Date: April 29th 2019

The team of Arab women sharpen their skills on the ice around Everest basecamp, in preparation for their first rotation through the Khumbu Icefall.

Dispatch #5: The Khumbu Icefall
Date: May 1st 2019

Experience the journey into the Khumbu Icefall with the team of Arab women. We explore their reasons for climbing Everest and their aspirations to inspire change in their societies.


Dispatch #6: The Lhotse Face
Date: May 11th 2019

The final video dispatch before the summit rotation. The team of Arab women climbers depart basecamp at 2 am and attempt to reach camp two in a single push. A cyclone is on the way, the Lhotse Face awaits and the stakes are high to acclimatize and touch camp 3. Will they make it?

Edited from 3450m in Namche Bazaar while on an oxygen vacation.

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Jun 13, 2019

Dreams Come True on Everest for Arab Women

Like the storms that forced climbers to rush the summit in a brief weather window, controversy surrounded Mt.



Kela Fetters

Everest this season, catalyzed by media reports of dangerous “traffic jams” on the peak. Amid declamations of overcrowding, inexperience, and incompetence, four women from Arab countries—the “Dream of Everest” team—quietly notched historical summits.

We’ve been following The Dream of Everest summit attempt for the past few weeks. You can read and watch all the dispatches here.

The Dream of Everest team, L-R: Shahab, Azzam, Attar, and Alharthy. Photos by Elias Saikaly.

Joyce Azzam and Nelly Attar of Lebanon, Nadhirah Alharthy of Oman, and Mona Shahab of Saudi Arabia climbed to the top of the world’s tallest mountain on the morning of May 23rd. Azzam became the first Lebanese woman to complete the Seven summits, with Attar following her as the second Lebanese woman to summit Mt. Everest. Alharthy became the first Omani woman to conquer Everest, and Shahab became the second Saudi woman to do so. Their accomplishment is evidence that despite the growing controversy of Everest expeditions, summiting the world’s tallest mountain can be much more than a bucket-list objective for wealthy hobbyists. By reaching the top of the world, Azzam, Attar, Alharthy, and Shahab sent a message of determination and ambition to Arab women.

The now-infamous summit queue. Photo by Nirmal Purja via Project Possible.

Overcrowding on Everest is due in part to the increasing number of summit-seekers; this year the Nepalese government issued a record 381 permits. Because all climbers must be accompanied by a sherpa, over 800 people pressed towards the summit this season. In addition to indiscriminate permitting, poor weather and inexperience may have contributed to traffic jams and fatalities. Elia Saikaly, the Dream of Everest team coordinator, cited bargain expedition companies as another face of the problem. “Where we really need to be looking is at the experience level (and lack thereof) of some climbers and the choices made by those individuals in terms of their logistic providers,” he said in an Instagram post. “We climbers all know which local company carries the burden of the highest loss of life. They happen to offer very cheap pricing which is enticing for some.” Arguably, some climbers have skimped on safety to check off a high-profile precipice. Economizing on Everest, according to Saikaly, allows hopefuls to “cut corners” at the imperilment of others on the mountain.

But those who bemoan the corrosion of the Everest experience can look to the Dream of Everest team as exemplars of the immutable symbolism of reaching the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. To accomplish their goal, the Dream of Everest women overcame gendered prejudices. They sent shock-waves through the Arab world, as evidenced by a statement by Omani Ahmed Al Musalmi, CEO of Sahar International Bank, that “Nadhirah’s win has gone a long way in demonstrating that women can achieve any goal that they are passionately determined to achieve”. Oman, along with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, rank among the bottom 20 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report. The dreamers from these countries, at the roof of the world, have the invaluable potential to empower Arab women by example. Everest is still a mountain where dreams come true.

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

The Outdoor Voyage booking platform and online marketplace only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

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