From the Middle East to Mount Everest

‘Dreams of a Refugee’ recounts the author’s extraordinary experience that led him to preach tolerant Islam.

Cover of Mostafa Salameh’s “Dreams of a Refugee: From the Middle East to Mount Everest.”

2017/05/21 Issue: 107 Page: 23

The Arab Weekly
Dunia El-Zobaidi

Many Muslims in the West suffer an identity crisis at some point. Their disillusionment may turn into hate, which Mostafa Salameh, a Jordanian-British mountaineer of Palestinian decent, tries to tackle in his book “Dreams of a Refugee: From the Middle East to Mount Everest.”

The book recounts Salameh’s extraordinary experience that changed the course of his life, leading him to renew his faith and preach a tolerant Islam, after reli­gion had previously played a very small part in his life.

Born in Kuwait, a chance meet­ing led Salameh to London then Edinburgh where he partied exces­sively. One night he had a dream in which he was standing on the highest mountain on Earth reciting the call to prayer. He decided to climb Mount Everest though he had no mountaineering experi­ence.

At first, Salameh described what seemed to be random encounters, including a clash with the Jorda­nian ambassador in London.

Later, his writing felt like it had more relevance. He referred to Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” when Gibran wrote of death: “When you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

He referred to Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” and the message that Allah knows the future but Al­lah is not telling him how to live his life. He wrote: “The way I see it, Al­lah provides opportunities and puts people in my path but everything depends on my intention and my intention has always been to help my family and parents and brothers and sister, and to be kind and loving to those I encounter.”

While in Edinburgh, Salameh said he felt the need to reacquaint himself with God, which led him to explore India.

Hindu and Buddhist teachings spoke to Salameh and he was particularly influenced by a quote of Siddhartha: “No one saves us but ourselves… No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”

In his book, Salameh spoke highly of the Jordanian king, who encouraged him to climb Mount Everest and to provide inspiration for young people.

He also spoke of the people he met during his climb, such as Su­hail, a sports champion represent­ing Jordan in the next Paralympics.

However, one of Salameh’s finest memories of the climb was meeting a team of Iranian mountaineers. He said they got on very well and there was mutual respect, despite him being a Sunni and they Shias. He said: “On Everest we were just Muslims and human beings.”

Salameh presented easily digestible summaries of the Palestinian conflict, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the causes of radicali­sation. He quoted British journalist Robert Fisk’s prediction “if the West causes trouble in the Middle East, it will come back to haunt them.”

Salameh blamed some European coun­tries for making it difficult for young people to be pious Muslims. They support mosques that centre on one or another na­tional group instead of supporting ethnic minorities to enable them to receive Islamic education in their local language. He reckoned that tackling identity crisis requires mixing with people from all back­grounds.

Salameh complained that the Middle East is deeply fragmented, noting that “travelling from one Arab country to another is much easier if you are the holder of an American or European passport than an Arabic one. Even if, for example, I visit Dubai on a Jordanian passport, the visa application takes a long time compared with the rapid speed when I travel with my British passport.”

Salameh is committed to spreading the message of tol­erant Islam. He is a motivation­al speaker and activist, trying to turn young people away from radicalisation. He said: “If you want to be a good Muslim, don’t fight unless you are attacked or you have to save your family or country. Be kind and honest. Respect other religions. We all worship the same God. There’s no need to convert or change anyone. Just accept everyone.”

After two failed attempts, Salameh reached the top of Mount Everest in 2008. He became the first Jordanian to reach the North Pole and to scale the Seven Summits — the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. In 2016, he reached the South Pole, the first Muslim to do so.

Dunia El-Zobaidi is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

As Printed
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved