Manal Rostom becomes first Egyptian woman to climb Everest

Athlete, 42, is known for raising awareness of discrimination suffered by women who wear hijab

Manal Rostom, Egypt���s most prominent marathon-runner and mountaineer, in Generation M.E. Courtesy OSN
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Mountaineer and marathon runner Manal Rostom has become the first Egyptian woman to reach the top of Mount Everest, almost two months after embarking on the feat, she confirmed in a live Instagram video on Wednesday.

"I'm the first Egyptian woman to climb Mount Everest!" Rostom, 42, said in a 30-minute feed to followers "safe and sound" from Everest base camp detailing the experience and her feelings.

“I’m very proud of this achievement. It means a lot to me," she said. “I still can’t believe it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life.”

Expedition organiser Climbing the Seven Summits said the Egyptian trailblazer reached Everest's summit on May 16, and that all those who had attempted the climb were safe.

"Congratulations to Manal A Rostom for becoming the first Egyptian woman to summit Mount Everest on May 16 in perfect weather," the trekking service said in a blog post.

In the video, Rostom said her phone was "blowing up" with messages and that she wanted to come on live to thank everyone for their support.

The Dubai-based athlete was particularly proud to represent Egyptian women and said reaching the summit has been a dream for her over the last 15 years.

She said she would no longer feel "imposter syndrome", that she was not strong enough to achieve the feat.

She spoke of the challenges, including feeling "unable to breathe" despite having an oxygen mask due to the extreme altitude. As she summited, she said she passed by two dead bodies.

Over the years more than 300 people have died attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at nearly 8,850 metres is the world's highest peak. Deaths have been attributed to avalanches, falls, frostbite and health problems related to conditions on the mountain.

Rostom has provided periodic updates on her journey since she embarked on her climb at the end of March.

While many of her posts were celebratory, the most recent was a tearful video in which she detailed some of the hardships as she inched closer to the world's highest peak. Rostom reported bouts of panic because she found it difficult to breathe.

"It’s been tough, challenging, isolating, physically demanding, mentally draining - I thought I’d done the work but I’m lonely," she said.

Over the course of her athletic career, Rostom has also reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Mount Elbrus.

She has run five of the world's six major marathons in New York, Berlin, Chicago, Boston, London, as well as competing in the Great Wall Marathon in China.

She is best-known for her collaboration with sportswear company Nike, in which she became the first woman wearing a hijab to appear in a company advertisement.

Manal Rostom highlights the discrimination of women who wear the hijab. Photo: Flow

After the success of the campaign, Nike announced the release of a new athletic hijab, its first Muslim-specific product.

Aside from her involvement in athletics, Rostom is an activist who has aimed to highlight the discrimination of women who wear the hijab.

In 2014, she founded a Facebook group called Surviving Hijab, an open platform for women to share stories about wearing the garment. The group has about one million members.

Omar Samra became the first Egyptian to reach the Everest summit in 2007 and has since reached the world's seven highest peaks. In 2013, Raha Moharrak became the first Saudi woman and youngest Arab to make it to the top of Everest.

Updated: May 18, 2022, 10:34 PM
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