As four women who have each smashed their own glass ceilings, who better to take life advice from than Jessica Kahawaty, Danah Al Ali, Amal Murad, and Raha Moharrak? The headline-making quartet took to the Vogue Loves Fashion Avenue main stage on Saturday night to round out our 10-day calendar of events celebrating The Dubai Mall’s 10th birthday, and certainly helped the program end with a bang. Tackling everything from stigmas placed on women in the region to the reasoning that kept them going on their darkest days, each shared their tales of rises to success, and the obstacles they’ve faced along the way.
Here, we highlight five of the key messages from the Women of Great Accomplishments panel, starring model and philanthropist Kahawaty, parkour expert Murad, and mountaineers Moharrak and Murad.
#1. Training your brain is just as important as training your body for mountain climbing.
“You put your mind in a situation where it has to survive,” said Moharrak. “If it’s a dangerous part of the mountain, then I’m very zoned in and focused on the rope. But if it’s a monotonous rhythm of just one foot in front of the other, and sometimes it’s 12 hours of just one foot after another, you need to zone out. I like to think I’m on the beach. Your body is so fatigued, and everything hurts, the only thing you can control is how you focus on the pain. A lot of people don’t realize that you can be an elite athlete and then go on the mountain and suck, because you don’t have the right mindset.”
#2. On realizing when is the right moment to take the leap.
“It’s ironic but it was when I broke my arm,” says Murad, on giving up her job to pursue parkour. “I broke my arm almost two years ago. It was a freak accident – now I have plates in my arm. I still worked two jobs back then; I had my corporate job and I went to the gym afterwards and taught classes. But because I saw that parkour could be taken away from me, I decided to just leave. If I left my job, I’d have no choice but to get better and pursue it fully, whereas if I had my full-time job, I’m not going to give 100% because i’m stable.”
#3. On the importance of paying it forward.
“It’s going to be a very, very selfish, self-centered act, that I went up a mountain and came back down again, if I was the only one,” mused Moharrak. “It will mean nothing if I’m the only Saudi woman or Arab woman to do this. Because what are we fighting for?” Murad agreed, adding: “That’s why I teach now. If you start and you can encourage others to do it, that’s the point.” Moharrak finished: “It might have started as a personal thing, but later it grows beyond you. A lot of people look at my summit pictures and see me only me standing there, and I say I’m standing on the shoulders of so many other people that got me there.”
#4. On learning to find balance.
“It’s tough,” says mother-of-two Al Ali. “My kids are just as active as me – I try to involve them a lot. We go out together, we play together, we do 5Ks together. Sometimes I have days where I’m so focused on the kinds, and other days where i feel like I’m doing a bad job as a mom. I’ve got other people to look after, and I’ve got friends and a social life, I’ve got work – you have to have a balance between everything.” But it’s important to find your own balance, Murad added, stating, “it’s ridiculous how much shame we give other women for doing something and making them feel guilty for doing it.”
#5. On why making mistakes is crucial.
“We are sometime so afraid of failing, that we don’t even start,” said Moharrak. “I think failure is an amazing lesson in life. I tell whoever is out there, fall down, collect a few scars, it makes you more interesting. I’d rather fall 10 times than sit in a chair and never get up.”
Watch the full live stream from the night – where the quartet reveal their future plans, the best advice they’ve ever been given, and more – below.