Three women from the UAE decided to scale the highest peak in the world: Mt. Everest. Two of these adventurers succeded; the third, an Emirati, made it all the way to Camp 4, the last stop before reaching the summit.
On May 22, 26-year-old Fatima Deryan made history as she became the first woman from the UAE to summit the 8,848-metre Everest peak from the South Col terrain (from Nepal). She is also the first Lebanese to accomplish the feat.
Another Dubai-based mountaineer, Dolores Shelleh, meanwhile became the first Arab woman to scale Mt. Everest from the North Col terrain (from China). (She also becomes the first Jordanian and the second Serbian, to successfully climb the mountain top.)
For the women, the drive neither came solely from the thought of breathing cool air on a mountain top nor from the idea of making history: they both had personal missions. Deryan, who owns a UAE-based cleaning company, wanted to do her bit to make Everest - which is fast-becoming an ugly example of tourism costs on the enviornment - cleaner. She spent her time taking notes for the mammoth task that lies ahead. For Shelleh, the aim was to spread a 'message to embrace more sustainable practices'.
Speaking to Gulf News from Kathmandu on Sunday (May 26), Deryan could not contain her excitement about successfully completing the world’s hardest summit.
“It took me two months to do it. But I am so happy that I have successfully climbed the Everest. It has been my dream to tackle the Everest ever since I was 14 years old. My parents had taken me on a holiday to Nepal and when I saw this beautiful mountain, I told myself I will scale it one day,” said Deryan.
Her real training, to walk atop the powdered hills, began at age 18. Since then, Deryan has found herself faced with stunning vistas.
She has tackled Mount Elbrus, in the Caucasus Mountains of Southern Russia; Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania; Aconcagua Mountain, in Argentina; and Nevada Ojos del Salado, in Argentina. In Chile, she became the first Arab on the highest active volcano, the Carstensz-Pyramide. This is besides summiting Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.
This year, it was time for her to realise her childhood dream; it was time to climb Everest.
“It took me two months to tackle Everest. It was a very tough journey. The weather did not help the situation much either. But [at the] end of the day I was determined to complete the goal I had set for myself. I set off on the journey on March 23 and reached the peak on May 22,” said the Lebanese expat who gave up a full-time career in Dubai to dedicate time for fitness and mountaineering training.
She said she would not have been able to achieve this if it was not for the immense support she has received from the UAE. “If I was in any other part of the world, I don’t think I would have been this motivated. As expats living in the UAE, we are accustomed to meeting people from different walks of life. During our stay in the UAE my parents took me on holidays to different parts of the world. It was during one of my holidays to Nepal which was completely life-changing and which pushed me to get interested in scaling the mountain.”
Jordanian Shelleh also said she was elated after her trip. “I took the northern Col route to Mt. Everest. Typically, there are several altitude issues for climbers in this path. Several fatalities have been recorded on this route and I am happy to make it back safely,” said the expat.
“By scaling Mt. Everest from the North Col, I intended to highlight the message of embracing more sustainable practices and to promote the use of renewable energy as well as reinforce the need to follow healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature. The challenge I undertook was arduous as the North Col of Mt. Everest route called for more technical climbing and the weather conditions were windier and chillier. With the support and blessings of my family, friends and my co-residents in The Sustainable City, I was able to accomplish the task.”
She hoped her successful climb would inspire the younger generation to take up personal challenges.
Shellah has previously climbed Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world, which is part of the Himalayas. It is regarded as the fourth most dangerous for climbers, due to the risk of avalanches. She has also scaled Mera Peak in Nepal, which stands at 6,476 metres; Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 metres above sea level; and Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, towering at 5,642 metres above sea level.
She works closely with The Sustainable City to raise awareness for the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals on climate change, sustainable cities and communities, and gender equality.
Commenting on her achievement, Faris Saeed, CEO of Diamond Developers, said: “Dolores Shelleh has pushed the boundaries and broken all stereotypical notions with her quest for adventure. Focused on promoting environmental sustainability through her feats, she also symbolises the wave of Arab women empowerment that is transforming our region. Now, by scaling the top of the world, Mt. Everest, and that too from the challenging Northern Col, she has proved to the world that with determination we can overcome any challenge, including the impact of climate change. Through our support to her, we are further underlining our commitment to promoting women and youth empowerment as well as women education and rights while highlighting the message of sustainable communities.”
Khadija’s determination and self-confidence have proved her greatest asset on her steep climb.
The link between thought and deed is made solid on a mountain - and by that logic, these three have earned themselves the moniker 'women of steel'.