Dubai – Omar Samra: Youngest Arab to climb the Everest دبي : عمر سمرة – أصغر عربي يصعد إلي جبل افرست

 Omar Samra (born 11 August 1978) is an adventurer, mountaineer, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and future astronaut. He is the first Egyptian and youngest Arabto climb Mount Everest. He reached the summit at 9:49 am Nepal time (roughly 7:19 am Egyptian time) on 17 May 2007. He is also the first Egyptian to complete the 7 Summits challenge on 31 May 2013, climbing the highest mountain on all 7 continents. On 5 December 2013, he was chosen to be an astronaut to become the first Egyptian in space sometime in 2014.

He founded WILD GUANABANA, a pioneer travel company thats offers  unique and inspiring journeys for adventurous spirits wanting to learn more about themselves and the world: http://www.wildguanabana.com

 

 

Can you tell us more about the little boy you were at school ?

I was very shy and curious, I stuck to myself quite a lot. Physically speaking, I was very skinny and weak. At the age of 11, I was asthmatic and had big problems with my breathing. I Could not play sport even If I tried.

The turning point in my life is when my parents took me to a Doctor who said that Omar has a kind of asthma that will disappear when he is older but he has to play sport very seriously if he wants to do something about it right away.

I think when I started to train and despite that it was very difficult in the beginning, I started to improve and eventually stopped using the medicine and inhalers they gave me. It was the first time where I understood that if you worked hard and preserved at something, you can change the cards that life gives you.

It was a big turning point in my life, because I realized then that whatever obstacles were thrown my way, I had the chance and opportunity to make a difference and change the course of my life. That was very empowering for me and this is how it began.

 

What made you quit your job and follow your dream?

During the 8 or 9 years that I worked in the corporate world, I always felt that something was missing. I never felt fulfilled and never saw how what I was doing day to day was affecting people’s life in a positive way, how I was serving the word in a positive way.

I was always searching for something else that could give me sense of fulfillment. I know I was passionate about travel, exploration and about sharing that experiences with others to try to inspire them to do the same. So It was just a matter of time when I discovered that I really needed to match my career with my passion for travel.

 

You are the first Egyptian and youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest, What were the hardest moments of this beautiful adventure?

I think that climbing Everest takes about 2 to 3 months. It is really a torturous and painful experience with some moments of happiness and joy. I can remember of experiences where it was really tough. The most difficult thing I was put in through the expedition was probably 7 weeks into the trip. We were trying to move from camp 2 to camp 3, and there was a man from another team who started half an hour before us. And when we got into a very step face of a mountain we found his body and we got closer we realized that he had already passed away, just a few minutes before we arrived and we were the first team of the scene.

Now when you climb Everest you understand that these things happen and there are 4,5 % of people who go and don’t come back but it’s a completely different thing to see it first-hand.

It was very challenging and we had to take a decision right there on what we needed to do, but fortunately we had already discussed different scenarios and had agreed that we either go up together or we turn back together.

And so fortunately we were all comfortable to continue even though it was very hard to take that decision and we were very scared. We were comfortable to keep going and I am glad that we did. We reached camp 3 that day. It was really one of toughest experience because throughout that whole day as we were climbing, we could not get that image out of our heads.

 

You got selected to go to Space after a global competition, tell us more :

In Feb 2013, Unilever launched a global competition in partnership with a company called Space Expedition Corporation, and more than a million people applied from 68 countries. On over 6 stages and 9 months, they went about selecting 23 people that will make that trip. In the final stage we were put into 4 challenges from G force, to zero gravity to manoeuvers fighting planes even physics exams and fitness tests and fortunately I was selected among the 23 and I was the only Arab to be selected.

 

How can sport give hope to the underprivileged kids:

Sports and adventures in general work in two different levels: one a physical level. It hones your body to be able to do things that otherwise if you are not exercising you will not be able. This gives you confidence and belief in yourself. It stretches the parameters of what you can even do as a human being.  Obviously the kind of ethic you develop when you train is unparalleled.

Adventure takes it to the another level because you deal with nature and a different scale of things. You are not just confronted by challenges of Sport but also by elements of nature. And it opens up another mental dimension as well. Because when you go through very hard times and you are struggling to keep going, it usually your mind that works against you. Telling you that you cant do this, why are you doing that.. etc…

And the ability to quiet your mind is something extremely necessary and valuable in general.

In life when you have a dream or a goal, It is a very hard process to reach it and takes usually a very long time. If you dont have the mental perseverance to do it then you simply not going to be able to.

When we take kids into nature and we take them into these adventurous experiences, they come back completely changed. Their sense of belief in themselves is beyond measure and I think it is a very impactful way to create this change in a very short period of time

 

Is there any anecdote from your childhood or life that affected you and made you want to achieve Excellence?

 I think when I was 11 yo, I was diagnosed with having a severe chest Ashma and I used to have trouble sleeping because I used to wake up unable to breath. The doctors confirmed this. I started taking medicine and eventually realized that the best way to overcome that was through hard work and training. And by doing this I started to improve. But just before that happened, in school we have the annual sport day and I remember signing up for 800m race. I was still very unfit and asthmatic. I remember running this race before the entire school and I finished number 7 out of 8. I was so unfit that I actually walked in to the finish line. And obviously felt so embarrassed.

And then after going to the doctor I decided that I was going to run the same race the next year. And it was very difficult to convince to school and my team to run that race because obviously my result that year was very uninspiring so I had to convince them that I had actually done something about it.

And after one year of training, I went back to run the same race. And that year they got the seniors to run with us, which meant that my chances were almost inexistent. But I ran that race and I finished first. I remember running this time into the finish line and it was the most rewarding thing I had ever done at that point of life. Again I realized that you can be in control of your destiny and with enough dedication you can achieve anything you put your mind to.  I gained a huge amount of confidence with this experience. It was completely a life changing moment for me and I took that lesson and approach in everything I did after that.

 

What are the values that helped you achieve Excellence and achieve all these goals?

I dont necessary see myself as necessarily talented in one thing. I never really knew how to play a certain instrument for example, I was never really knowledgeable, and did not have any natural skill in a specific sport. The thing that managed to allow me to excel in a lot of things I do, is that I became extremely stubborn about achieving my goals. And I realized that I was never going to take No for an answer and I was going to work hard and preserve at anything I put my mind to, until I got it done.

The asset I developed over the years, and was probably the biggest asset I have right now, is to be able to develop a sense of intuition and be able to make the right choices. And a lot of the times we are struggling trouble taking decisions because we always use the mind too much to think about dreams and goals. The mind is not really made for that, it is made to analyze and prioritize things. If you apply it to dreams and goals the mind will come with a hundred different ways why you cant do something and it will make you scared and doubt yourself.

So I learned from early on to listen to my heart and intuition and make decision based on that. It just made all the difference and if you manage to practice you can actually hone that skill. And even if you look at top Fortune CEOs from around the world, they will talk about their best decision making tool. You will see that they will talk about this element with a different name be it God, intuition or so on..

There is in each one of us something inside that is true and honest and that is waiting to come out. If you can give it a chance and listen to yourself, and have the guts to follow it, then definitely that will take you far.

I think about my life as an opportunity to become the best version of myself that I can be. It is really just a journey. When I approach my life in this way, I realise that I am just hungry for every opportunity I have to become a better person, because ultimately that means that I will be able to serve others better.

 

Is there a person who affected and pushed you to really want to achieve Excellence ?

My mother has been a big role model in my life because from an early age, she had my 2 sisters who are in special needs, who were handicapped. And when they were born, Egypt had no care for that so she had to move the UK to put them to school. And after 6 years she wanted to go back and there was still no care so she started her own NGO specialized in special needs. And now 30 years later it has become a regional force and it has changed a lot of legislations in Egypt. And seeing her wake up every day and work so hard to do something with has no monetary gain is something that was very inspiring for me.

 

You went through extremely difficult moments in your life, where do you get the strength from to carry on and achieve incredible things and keep inspire others?

I think in life there are two kinds of challenges; the ones you create for yourself and the challenges that find you.

I have relatively been good at creating challenges for myself, climbing Everest or starting my own company. It is hard in a way but when you make it happen there is a huge sense of fulfillment.

But then sometimes life throws at you some very difficult things. A few months ago my wife passed away when giving birth to our daughter and it is definitely the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my whole life. Obviously I still struggle and it is still a very difficult thing, but I realized that it is very important in life to continue to move forward. It is what she would have wanted, it is what my daughter would need and this is what everybody expects from you. Sometimes it is very difficult when you are in pain to take very big steps, to achieve great things. But you can just tell yourself: that is OK, as long as you are moving forward even if it is very tiny steps, then that is good. And that is the approach I have had for myself the last few months and again it comes from the idea and understanding that you are only passing through life for a very short period of time, we are all going to leave. In that short time that you are here, you need to touch as many people as possible. This is what I try to do and I hope I can do more of it.

 

If you had the chance to start your life again, what would you do differently?

I am not sure I would do anything differently. There are things that on the face of it don’t seem right. For example, I was stuck in the corporate world for 8 or 9 years, but I would not trade that for anything because i gained some valuable skills out of it and I also learned what I don’t like, which is sometimes more valuable than learning what you really want. If you go through the corporate life and then realize it is not for you, then you will never turn back. Knowing that now allows me to go chase my dreams and goals with full force without having any doubt that I am on the right track. So I would not change anything…

 

What do you think about the Arab Excellence initiative?

I think that the Arab Excellence program is something that is in crucial need in the whole part not just in this part of the world. Especially in this time, right now.

We are in great need of role models in different fields to motivate and inspire. I think stories and real experiences of people who are close to us whom we can relate to, can completely change how you view life. There are people in my life that have inspired me, from close to home and I think that works even stronger than just looking at international figures. They can inspire us but we cannot really relate to them because they don’t come from the same background. It is then easy to say « it is easy for them to do it, because they have things we don’t have here, or because their government support them and so on…”

But seeing people who have come from our countries, our communities and have actually been able to change the world in a real way while serving other others is really inspiring.

I am really happy that the AE team has dedicated their time and energy to this, because I think the pay-out is going to be huge for youth around the world and in the Arab World.

 

What message of hope would you give to underprivileged kids ?

The road to excellence is not a straight road. We fail and struggle a lot before getting to our dream. When we fail one or twice, we are tempted to give up. Each one of you should learn from your mistakes, because that means you are getting stronger and with perseverance you will ultimately be able to achieve your dream.

When chasing your dream, you should know that the road will be long and full of obstacles. If it was easy then anyone would have been able to do it.

You should enjoy not only achieving your goal but the journey to get there. The most important element I have learned is that we tend to listen to people who tell us where we are good at and we are not good at. But only you can know what you are capable of. Many times during our lives, we do not get the opportunity to see what is our potential and what we are capable of. Each of you have capabilities that are beyond measure but you should give yourself the chance and give it a try.

Most people fail not because they try dont make it, but fail because they done even try, they dont make the first step.

When you have a dream and vision that you believe in, make the first step and the most important is the way you feel about it, not with your head but with your heart

When you make the first step, then you can use you head to plan and priorities you next actions. But the first step always comes from your heart.  So when you have an intuition about something, trust it and for sure, despite the obstacles, with perseverance and hard work you will achieve it.


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