Coach Sara, the first Saudi Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Certified Clinical Dietitian, took up the challenging journey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and shares her inspiring and rigorous experience.
What made you decide to join this climb?
Well, I’m not going to sugarcoat my answers to these questions and won’t be giving a cliché answer either, but I promise to be honest and cordial. So here it goes: Mount Kilimanjaro was never on my to-do- list. Traveling and experiencing the naked world is. Kilimanjaro simply ticked all my adventure boxes. Doing it for an honorable charity cause was just the icing on the cake.
Are you a beginner or advanced climber?
If there’s a level below beginner, that’s where I am. Back in the summer of 2015, I hiked a three-hour mountain in Spain. I was so proud of myself; it was literally the highlight of my year. So you can imagine how Kilimanjaro was really pushing the edges of my comfort zone.
What was the experience like for you?
How many swear words are you allowed to publish in your magazine? None? Then let’s just say it was “hard”. Way harder than I expected. Exceeded my expectations, limitations and imagination. But there was a sliver lining (as is the case in everything in life): those happy moments of laughter, dancing and being goofy, those unbelievable sunrises and sunsets and those morning cups of hot chocolate. Made it all worth it.
What's the most memorable part of the climb? And likewise, what was the hardest?
My most memorable moment was on summit day at 8 AM, at the last stretch between Stella Point and Uhuru Point. I had already been hiking for ten painful hours, enduring the altitude symptoms— my heart was racing, it was hard to breathe. Some of my teammates were already on their way back down, encouraging me and hugging me, telling me things like “You’re so close, you’re only ten minutes away,” and “Keep going, you’ve got fifteen minute tops to go.” That was a lie. It was the longest hour in my life, but if it weren’t for those hugs and encouraging words, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the top.
The hardest part was losing two toenails in the process. My feet where bloated, sore and painful to touch. The silver lining: wearing open toe sandals, waiting for people to ask me about my blackish purplish toes and answering casually: “Yeah, what, those? I climbed Kilimanjaro, no biggie.” And if you are an attention seeker like I am, those few seconds of admiration will be like living the dream. Flaunt those disgusting toes my friends, flaunt them!
Are there any lessons you learned on the mountain?
Again, no sugarcoating here. To be completely honest, and as cocky as this will sound, I never doubted that I’d make it to the summit because I’ve exposed myself to several challenging situations that made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses. It was just a matter of working on them and improving myself. Was it a humbling experience? Absolutely! Self-worth and self-confidence status? Through the roof!
After the climb, I was telling some of my students about the experience (for purely show-off purposes). Then, one of them asked me, “But why do people climb mountains for a cause? Can’t they just raise awareness where they are?” And that’s when it hit me. Climbing a mountain for a cause raises awareness, of course. It’s also about recruiting us, the climbers, to fight for the cause. If I’m going to put myself through this rigorous experience, then I really do believe in this cause. When I come back, I’m already involved. I’m personally invested. I’m more dedicated to the children of divorce because of what I’ve been through.
What advice would you give to people who are not super fit or haven't been active but would like to be?
If you’ve never climbed a mountain, I would advise you to follow a set fitness plan and be psychologically prepared to do it. Be prepared to hate yourself at first but then love yourself for accomplishing your goal. Most importantly, choose your climb-mates well; they will be forever your family.
About the Empowerment HubAbout MawadahHow to donate
The Empowerment Hub’s mission is to revolutionize what women feed their minds and bodies. They aim to strengthen women’s health and fitness awareness in the Kingdom by creating active, social, and educational events. All proceeds goes to different non-profit organizations and charities in Saudi…Fitness4aCause!
Website: The Empowerment Hub
Mawaddah Women Charity based in Saudi Arabia, work closely with children of divorcees, and have taken it upon them to create a safety haven for children of divorcees. Not too long ago, visiting hours took place at police stations. Today, Mawaddah is the legal hub for visits. “Beit Mawaddah” aka “Mawaddah Home” is a safety haven where visiting hours take place; drop offs, pick-ups and more. It’s every child’s right to feel safe with their parent/caregiver, and it’s every parent’s right to know that their child is safe during their absence.
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Read about more Climbers with a Cause:
Fatima Batook | Lynne Fleifel | Heidi Alaskary & Yasmin Dabbagh | Aida Adnan | Wafa Alkhayal | Ghadah Nasser Alkaud