Muscat: Nadhira al Harthi savoured the moment as her feet stood solid on the ground. All around her, she can see the blinding glory of the snow enveloping rocks deposited at the seafloor around 450 to 500 million years ago.
She was a woman standing on top of the world which the Tibetans call Chomolungma (or Goddess Mother of Mountains when translated to English) while the Nepalis called it Sagarmatha — the Forehead in the Sky. For the rest, it would be known as the Everest attributed to George Everest, a Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843, who discovered it in 1841.
Her victory sent shockwave all over Oman. Finally, an Omani, a woman, has summitted the highest mountain of them all and for this feat, she has secured her spot in the annals of Oman’s bravest women who did not let hindrances stop them from achieving little dreams born from the golden dunes of the Sultanate.
While her feet were solidly perched on the icy slope of Everest, she was fighting a lot of battles. At 8,850 m, the terrain was treacherous, the temperature never rose above freezing levels averaging -19 degrees Celsius in the summer and the wind speed reached in excess of 200mph. She has to worry about altitude sickness and exposure, avalanches and even lack of oxygen. Not everyone who attempted to climb the pinnacle of this ‘mother of mountains’ reached the top. The path to the summit is littered with bodies of dreamers — over 200 of them — signalling to new challengers that the journey comes with regrettable risks.
Yet Nadhirah, this woman of the academe and science, an athlete in her own passion and choosing has done what many can only dream of. As she looked at the 360-degree view around her relying on an oxygen canister that lent her life, she triumphantly waved a small flag she brought with her. With every breeze that brushed the flag also brushed her aching body soothing her senses reminding her that her almost two years of preparation led her exactly where she wanted to be — on top of this window to the world looking down on the most beautiful of creation.
Not an overnight affair
Nadhirah is one of the four Arab women who embarked on this ‘Dream of Everest’ adventure. Award-winning adventure filmmaker Elia Saikaly has been documenting their progress and triumphs calling them “pioneers of all that is possible and role models for all of the dreamers out there who dream the wildest of dreams.”
The only Omani on the group, Nadhirah has been preparing for two years joining different climbs and to acclimatize her body on the rigorous and demanding journey.
She has been a geography teacher and while she currently works as a director for one of the government offices in Oman, her eyes had always been in summitting all the peaks she can find. She once took students on an expedition to Kilimanjaro in coordination with the Ministry of Education and it is during that trip that she realised that her passion had begun to become a “life purpose.”
“Climbing makes me happy. It was on one of these trips that I decided I will do something big. I went on to dream big,” Nadhirah said. The big dream was conquering Mount Everest.
“I do not have free time for anything. I have been training all the time. I used to also participate in competitions such as the marathons. I joined Muscat Marathon and Oman by UTMB as examples and other than that, I went to other countries just to participate in the same. Competitions are good because I can keep a check on my abilities and not just training,” she shared before her flight to Nepal.
On April 1, she and her team arrived in the land of Mount Everest. For two months, she has to train her body to acclimatize to the condition of the mountains. The more than a month of stay at the base camp were spent on training — weighted backpacks, building her strength, endurance, and cardio. She has to learn about altitude sickness and how to ration food and hydrating herself in a critically-low-in-oxygen environment.
They have to consistently monitor the weather and the wind speed. Everything was down to Science. Success for them was knowing what is ahead of them.
“The challenging part was to stay at the base camp. It was not easy. Food and water usage were different. Everything that you are accustomed to flies out of the window when you decide to live in nature. We are very far away and everything in that environment comes with challenges and prices. We have to accept that reality and do what we have to do to stay healthy and accomplish our goal,” she said.
Saikaly, the filmmaker and experienced mountaineer, has shared on social media that Nadhirah’s team “powered past dozens and dozens of climbers in the dark, faced the unimaginable, in sub-zero temperatures at 8,848m, with utmost grace and style.”
“I am grateful to God that I made it to the top of the Mount Everest and thus my dream has come true,” she said.
A trip back home
On May 28, 2019, Nadhirah was welcomed by family members and friends at the Muscat International Airport — days after her successful climb of Everest’s peak. There was a spirit of celebration in the air. Her brother, her avid supporter, rallied everyone with so much pride in his face. There were tears of happiness, giving of trophies, shawls and bouquets and greetings.
Sitting quietly at one corner was her mother who wanted to see her daughter who now holds the title – First Omani Woman Who Climbed Mount Everest.
Nadhirah received the warm welcome and accolade with humility smiling pleasantly at the well-wishers and loved-ones who came.
“I am happy that I am back in Oman with my family and friends and everyone who supported me. I am thankful that everything went well,” she said.
Team Sohar International who supported her journey was also there too to receive her.
Ahmed Al Musalmi, Chief Executive Officer of Sohar International noted, “We are proud of Nadhirah’s remarkable feat that has truly made her an unstoppable winner, becoming the first Omani woman to summit Mt Everest. Nadhira’s win has gone a long way in demonstrating that women can achieve any goal that they are passionately determined to achieve and put the Sultanate on the international map,”
Nadhirah will then spend the rest of her week attending press conferences, meet-ups and awarding events. She has become a true pride not only of Omanis but the whole nation.
All through her busy schedule and the fame that comes along with the achievement, there was something mesmerising about what she shared in an interview done at the sideline of her arrival.
Asked what the biggest moment was in all of it including the things that followed, she answered that nothing can defeat having been able to raise Oman’s flag on top of the world. It’s both symbolic and emblematic that when Omanis and anybody put their hearts and minds to it, no mountain is ever too high.