Seif Saleh Alshunnar Becomes Youngest Emirati to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Seif Saleh Alshunnar recently beat his brother Ali’s current record as youngest Emirati to climb Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, at only 14 years of age. Standing at 5,895 metres above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the highest free standing mountain in the world.
Seif’s older two brothers had respectively held the title in turn, with Moawiyah Saleh Alshunnar at age 15 and a half and Ali Saleh Alshunnar at age 15 and 1 month
A Grade 9 student at Jumeira Baccalaureate School (JBS) in Dubai, Seif has always taken an interest in a variety of sports and high endurance activities such as tennis, football, basketball, horse riding, and Tang Soo Do (a Korean martial art), in which he became a black belt at age 12.
Commenting on his decision to climb the mammoth mountain, Seif said: “2018 is the Year of Zayed, and I wanted to complete the challenge this year. Our leaders in the UAE always encourage us to push boundaries and to be the best. It is our duty to always do great things for them and for our country.”
As part of friendly brotherly rivalries, Seif wanted to embark on the remarkable journey to beat his brothers’ records and so pushed his father to take him in early Summer.
Seif had also learned about a Foundation in the UAE called Little Wings Foundation (supported by the Al Jalila Foundation) which is run by a renowned Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon who had previously treated Seif. So, Seif thought that he could also use this trip to highlight the cause of this Foundation, which does amazing work with children in war torn countries and jurisdictions worldwide.
With these motives in mind, Seif set off on his expedition where he and his father hiked several thousand metres each day for many hours per day, and camping in tents for six nights. They reached the summit, Uhuru Peak, on 27th June, 2018.
He said: “It is amazing how many different environments (weather and fauna) you encounter on the route, from a very pleasant climate and forest environment at the base of the mountain, to extremely cold ice covered terrain with low levels of oxygen. This of course made the last few days particularly difficult and tiring.”
Seif highlighted that his biggest pride and joy was to hold the UAE flag at the highest point in Africa, at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. “This was certainly a life changing experience and conjured up a mix of feelings and emotions from pain and exhaustion to joy and elation. The thoughts that go through your mind during the hours of walking are incredible making the journey itself the most memorable part of the whole experience.”
“You learn to conquer pain and tiredness by controlling one’s mind. Although I trained heavily for this expedition, it is as much overcoming mental challenges as it is physical”
Seif definitely recommends the journey to others but stresses the need to be ready both physically and mentally. He trained daily for months including in Ramadan where, despite fasting, he would still go to the gym daily. He also sought his brothers’ advice from their experiences to be sure he was ready.