Raha Moharrak Becomes First Saudi Woman To Climb Mt. Everest

Raha Moharrak
Raha Moharrak

Raha Moharrak has become the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb Mt. Everest when she made it to the summit yesterday after a grueling climb.

The 25-year-old climber first had to convince her family to allow her to make the attempt, and then had to undergo rigorous training to climb the world’s tallest peak. She was part of a four-person team called Arabs on Top of the World. The team also includes Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, the first Qatari, and Raed Zidan, the first Palestinian to make the attempt. Masoud Mohammad, an Iranian, is also on the expedition.

The team is working on a rotation system with other expeditions, so the men are currently trying to make the ascent.

The team isn’t only making history; they’re also making a difference. They’re trying to raise $1 million for educational projects in Nepal. A donate button can be found on their website. This is a cause near and dear to Moharrak’s heart. She’s currently a graduate student in Dubai.

Galley Gossip: Interview With A Saudi Airline Flight Attendant

Where are you from, Ahmed? Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I’m Jeddah based.

What are the requirements to become a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? High school minimum, English language (reading writing and spoken fluent), minimum age is 19, maximum age is 35, flight attendant diploma or courses has a priority.

How long was your flight attendant training? 3 months. But the new procedure is 6 months.

What’s the best thing about being a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? Benefits. We receive 14 salary per year in addition housing and transportation allowances, many free tickets, 24 hour insurance for accidents, and social position.

What is the average time on the job as a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? Retirement age 60 years or 40 years flying. Male flight attendants don’t have contracts. We are government employees. Female have an open contract. 25 years maximum.

Are female flight attendants recruited from other countries? Yes. We recruit from Morocco, Tunis , Egypt , Sudan , Ethiopia , Algiers , Albania , Bosnia , Turkey , Lebanon , Jordan , Syria, Pakistan , India , Philippines , Malaysia , Indonesia and Bangladesh. We don’t have any flight attendants from Saudi Arabia or The Gulf Countries.

How do you think being a flight attendant in the United States differs from being one in Saudi Arabia? Being a flight attendant in Saudi airlines is more secure then USA because we belong to the government and Ministry of Aviation and Defense. Nobody can fire you due to bankruptcy of the company. We receive a salary and benefits no matter what happens to the company.

Favorite airplane? If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going – hehehe

Longest flight? Washington and New York is our longest flight. 14 hours of flying.

Favorite route? Flights to the US so I can reach my required flying time in three flights only.

Least favorite route & why? London. Some of the passengers cannot ask for anything without mentioning their British passport.What are your top three favorite layover cities? Paris, Casablanca and New York.

How long are your layovers? Between 26 to 100 hours for some flights. Washington is either 52 or 100 hours. New York is either 35 or 60 hours. We used to stay in Manhattan but now we stay in Long Island City. We have a layover in Milan, Italy for 126 hours.

Where is your favorite place to work on the plane? Galley. To be away from the headaches of passengers.

If you could work for any airline in the world, which one would it be? I think I rather stay with my airline but Singapore, Emirates or Etihad is my second choice.

If you could be anywhere in the world, where would it be? USA Or Morocco

With your culture, how do you handle the treatment of female passengers? Like everybody else. No special treatment these days.

During the Ramadan, how do you deal with not eating and drinking during sunlight with a very tiring job like yours? It’s allowed in our religion (Islam) during Ramadan to eat and drink while traveling, but some of us prefer to be fasting.

Is it true that female cabin crew can’t serve men during their “time of the month?Nooo! Of course it’s just rumors without source.

Can you marry and/or have kids and keep working? Yes. With the new rules females can marry and have kids. They have maternity leave for maximum one year.

Is there a call to prayer in the air? No, but if someone asks we’ll let them know.

During prayer onboard the aircraft when passengers need to get up and face the east, how do you accommodate for that? All the new fleet (wide bodied) is equipped with a worship place in the aft of the aircraft (A330 , B777 , B747)

Do you have a union? Sky Team Alliance.

Do you have to share hotel rooms with other flight attendants? Yes, but only on domestic layovers. We get our own rooms when we work international flights.

What is the strangest customer request & how did you handle it? For me the strangest request came from a teenage girl. She wanted to kiss me. I had to take her number just to escape from her because she insisted on kissing me in flight. One of my friends had a passenger ask him if he could try and open the door during flight just to see how a decompression will occur.

What will you do once your flying career is over? Move to Morocco, my wife’s country. I might sign a contract with any aviation agents flying on small planes and exercising aviation sports like sky diving and paragliding. I live for flying.

[Photo Credit: Ahmed Mousa]

A Pre-Islamic Civilization In Saudi Arabia

Pre-Islamic Civilization, Saudi Arabia
The ancient past of one of the world’s most closed countries is beginning to be revealed.

Mada’in Saleh, about 200 miles north of Medina in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is an impressive remnant of the Nabataean civilization, the same people who built Petra in Jordan 2,000 years ago. Massive tombs carved out of cliffs tower over the desert. Some are decorated with carvings or bear ancient inscriptions dedicated to the dead who lie within. Around the tombs are the ruins of a once-thriving city at a key node of an extensive trade network.

The Nabataean Kingdom stretched from its capital Petra in what is now Jordan deep into the Arabian Peninsula. It grew wealthy from trading in incense from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean. Incense was used in religious rituals and burials and was vitally important for many cultures, including the Romans. The Nabataeans had a powerful kingdom from 168 B.C. until the Roman Empire annexed it in 106 A.D.

Mada’in Saleh was near the southern edge of Nabataean territory, perfectly poised to control the trade route. Even though it’s in the middle of a desert, there are good wells at the site and the Nabataeans managed to cultivate sizable tracts of land.

The most visible remains are the 131 rock-cut tombs with carved facades of a style similar to those in Petra 300 miles to the northwest. There are less grandiose attractions too. Here and there on the sandstone outcroppings are little niches that once held statues of pagan gods. Other stones have carved designs of animals dating from before the kingdom, back to an earlier people called the Lihyanites.

%Gallery-167884%Despite being alongside one of the main pilgrimage routes for the Hajj, the ruins of Mada’in Saleh were ignored for years by Saudi authorities who had no interest in civilizations before the advent of Islam. Now that’s changing, AFP reports. Saudi Arabia is slowly opening up to tourism and the site is drawing an increasing number of tourists. Last year Mada’in Saleh attracted 40,000 visitors and site managers want to double that figure this year. Most visitors are curious Saudis, but the country’s tourism office is encouraging foreigners to visit as well.

There are two museums on the site, although neither is about the Nabataean civilization. One is about the nearby pilgrimage route and another is dedicated to the Hejaz railway opened by the Ottomans in the early 20th century.

French archaeologists are currently excavating the site so hopefully more information about this southern outpost of the Nabataean civilization will come to light.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user Sammy Six]

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh opens, featuring bowling alley and cigar bar


ritz-carlton riyadh


The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. continues to expand into the Middle East market with their first hotel in Saudi Arabia, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh. The 493 room hotel in the Diplomatic Quarter is adjacent to the King Abdul Aziz Convention Centre.

Of course, the hotel has to be appropriately palatial – it includes 52 acres of landscaped gardens, a massive fountain, and a one kilometer driveway.

Originally envisioned as a royal guest palace for visiting dignitaries and heads of state, the hotel’s architecture is modeled on traditional palaces and elegant Arabian residences. Native palms, 600-year old olive trees from Lebanon, and water fountains abound.

“This majestic hotel’s prime location in the literal heart of the Arabian Peninsula offers many significant advantages to visiting guests and dignitaries,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. “We are extremely proud that The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh represents our first hotel into the Kingdom. We have been aggressively seeking the right first location in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, and believe there could be no better place for a Ritz-Carlton than in this” added Humler.

The interior of the hotel is also imbued with a sense of place – guestrooms and suites use the vibrant colors and ethnic textures of the region. Highlights include not just one, but 49 exquisitely appointed two-bedroom Royal Suites, each generously measuring 4,574 square feet and 50 one-bedroom, opulent Executive Suites at 1,022 square feet. Wow.

The hotel also features 62,000 square feet of meeting space, an Aubergine restaurant, a buffet-style restaurant serving Lebanese favorites, Asian and Italian restaurants, a tea lounge and a cigar lounge that will be home to one of the widest selection of Cuban cigars in Saudi Arabia. The hotel also features an indoor six-lane bowling alley, indoor swimming pool and men’s health club with three treatment rooms. Sorry ladies, you’re out of luck here- there isn’t a women’s health club or spa. See more pictures, below:
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*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the hotel has an on-site ICU. This information has since been removed.

A journey to Mecca

The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the “Hajj“, is a once-in-a-lifetime journey required by all followers of Islam. Each year, millions of pilgrims make the journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to pay respects to their religion, resulting in a tidal wave of visitors, traffic and stress on the local economy.

Vimeo user KDMart captures the journey spectacularly in the above video, from the masses of crowds migrating towards Mecca to the circular movement around the Masjid_al-Haram. In real life, the mass of bodies in the high temperature desert can often be a noisy and crowded affair, but in time lapse, the pilgrimage takes on a macroscopic beautiful movement of bodies and nature, a beautiful display of religion in motion. KDMart does a great job in telling the story.