King’s Academy, September 21, 2016 – “How many of you have a dream? How many of you believe you will achieve your dream? Let me tell you, nothing is impossible!” This was how adventurer Mostafa Salameh began his rousing speech at the first special assembly of the academic year that took place yesterday in the Abdul Majeed Shoman Auditorium.
Mostafa Salameh is the first Jordanian, first Arab and one of only 13 people in the world to ever climb the Seven Summits - the highest mountains on each continent - and conquer both the South Pole and the North Pole. Surprisingly, mountain climbing had never been a dream of Salameh’s. That is, until he had an actual dream in which he saw himself praying for peace on top of the world’s highest peak.
As one of 10 children born and raised in Jordan’s Palestinian refugee camp of Al Wehdat, Salameh’s first dream – of attending university – seemed out of reach. Demonstrating his now characteristic determination, however, Salameh started working as a waiter, taught himself English, and worked his way through hotel management school while supporting his family. From there, he quickly rose through the ranks of the hospitality industry to become assistant general manager of a five-star hotel. His next goal was to travel the world, and that is when he dreamed of the mountain. Following this calling would change the course of Salameh’s life.
Salameh admits that when he first started out, he knew nothing about climbing, was not athletic and wasn’t even sure where Mt. Everest was. Education and preparation he believes are crucial to achieving a goal, so he concentrated on educating himself about everything and practiced climbing smaller mountains, and in the meantime tried to drum up support for his first attempt to climb Mt. Everest. Eventually attracting the attention of His Majesty King Abdullah and the Royal Court, Salameh was issued a challenge. If he could first summit Mt. Denali, North America’s highest mountain, they would support his Mt. Everest expedition.
“How I ended up standing at the top of North America I have no idea,” Salameh said. “But I knew this would be a turning point for the rest of my life. I climbed it, everyone was happy, and the sponsorships starting coming.”
Although Salameh described his first major expedition as “terrible” due to his lack of experience, he learned valuable lessons that held him in good stead for future expeditions.
“I take lots of risks, but I take calculated risks. I train so well. I learn about everything I need to know, I read all the books. I study everything before I go, so there are no surprises,” Salameh said. “You need to be prepared both physically and mentally. Look after your body and make sure there are no doubts in your mind.”
In addition to education, Salameh told students that teamwork is essential to achieving goals.
“Without the Sherpa guides I would never have made it to the top of Everest,” he said. “No one can make it without teamwork. Teamwork starts at home with your mom and dad, your brother and sister, it starts with your school and your teachers and colleagues. The reward is so much better when you do something as a team.”
Salameh went on to climb Mt. Everest. Forced to turn back because of illness during his first two attempts, he finally achieved his goal on the third try, becoming the first Jordanian to make it to the top of Everest on May 25, 2008, Jordan’s Independence Day. Upon his return, Salameh was awarded the Independence Medal by HM King Abdullah II. He went on to climb all seven of the highest mountains in the world.
Not content to stop there, Salameh decided to trek to the North and the South Poles. This new challenge required that he learn a whole new set of skills, such as skiing, which he had never done before.
As passionate as Mostafa Salameh is about mountaineering and trekking to the Poles, he is just as passionate about giving back to his country and supporting his community. He started a number of charitable initiatives including ‘Lowest Point to Highest Point for Cancer’ where he and a team of 20 Jordanians climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and raised two million dollars.
These days, Salameh is excited to be working on outdoor education initiatives, through which he hopes to raise awareness about the importance of outdoor activities for youth as well as to inspire them to follow their dreams. This year his book Dreams of a Refugee was also published.
Mostafa Salameh ended his talk with some advice to students: “Never give up. I failed the first time and the second time, but I knew in my soul and my mind that I was going to reach the top of Mt. Everest. You need to find out what your Everest is, and find out how to achieve it.”