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|Occupation||Adventurer, mountaineer, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, writer|
Omar Samra is an adventurer, entrepreneur, and speaker. He is the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest, the 7 Summits and ski to both the Geographic South and North Pole (the Explorers Grand Slam). He is also the first Egyptian to complete the 7 Summits challenge on 31 May 2013, climbing the highest mountain on all 7 continents. Samra is one of 40 known people to accomplish the "Explorers Grand Slam" challenge, which include climbing the highest mountain on every continent, the 7 summits, and skiing to both the South and North Poles. Samra has also been selected for Nasa's PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) program along with 2 other Egyptians, Abdelraouf El Waqad and Ahmed Farid.
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Born in London on 11 August, Samra moved to Cairo when he was only weeks old. He finished his schooling at El Alsson School and graduated from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in 2000 with a BA in Economics and minor in Business Administration. He was also awarded an MBA degree at the London Business School in 2007 with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. Between his bachelors and masters level education, Samra worked with HSBC in London and Hong Kong for two and a half years before embarking on a 370-day journey across Asia and Latin America (14 countries).
Upon his return from his yearlong trip, Samra resumed working in London in the banking field and began his 2-year MBA programme 1.5 years after that. His expedition to Mount Everest began upon the completion of his MBA in March 2007 and lasted for 9.5 weeks. Samra then moved back to Cairo to work for Actis in the field of Emerging Markets Private Equity.
In May 2009, Samra decided to leave his corporate career behind and founded Wild Guanabana, the Middle East & North Africa's first carbon-neutral travel company specializing in ethical and adventure travel which has offices in Cairo and Dubai.
Samra climbed his first snowy mountain in the Swiss Alps at the age of 16. The trip inspired him and it is then that he decided that he would like to climb Everest one day. An unrealistic goal at the time, especially given that Samra was severely asthmatic at age 11. After his Swiss experience, he went on to trek and climb extensively in the UK, Himalayas, Alps, Andean, Patagonian and Central American mountain ranges. Other adventures include traversing the Costa Rican jungle in 3 weeks, cycling across the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, around Andalusia in Spain and from London to Paris. As a keen traveler, Samra has been to over 80 countries and published writing about his traveling experiences in both English and Arabic. He is currently working on publishing his first book on the same topic.
Beginning December 2002, Samra embarked on a 370-day journey across the continents of Asia and Latin America covering 14 countries. The objective of the trip was not to go to as many countries as possible but to truly dig below the surface of every country visited. The trip was completed on a $20/day budget. In many ways this trip became the inspiration for Samra's later career change and the founding of his Adventure Travel company Wild Guanabana.
The spark of the journey
At the age of 16, Samra had the opportunity to travel to Switzerland and climb a small mountain there. It was the first time he'd seen snow let alone walk in it. Climbing a small mountain there left a big impression on the young Samra and it is then that he set himself the ambition of one day climbing the highest mountain on earth. When asked about what sparked the idea of climbing Everest, Samra said:
Everest is regarded as one of, if not the most challenging of human conquests. I was passionate about climbing and a great believer that one should always challenge their own perception of where their boundaries lie. Everest seemed like an irrational challenge for an Egyptian, so I embraced it wholeheartedly. This feeling grew stronger when I realized that no Egyptian had attempted, let alone stood, on the roof of the world. The desire and pride of representing my country and raising the Egyptian flag on the highest points on earth has been with me ever since.
Success on Mount Everest
In 2007, Samra joined Ben Stephens, Victoria James and Greg Maud in putting together an expedition to climb Mount Everest from its South side. They were led by (at the time) 3-time Everest summiteer Kenton Cool.
Samra and Stephens met first at London Business School while reading for their two-year MBA. Samra had just completed his second climbing trip to the Peruvian Andes to "get climbing out of my system" according to him, before beginning his MBA. Little did he know that he would receive a university-wide email from Ben just 1.5 months later seeking interested parties wanting to attempt Everest. Samra immediately changed his plans and set Everest as a goal for 2007.
In the beginning there were roughly 30 to 40 interested parties but after one month of training, planning and a climbing trip in the Scottish winter, that number quickly dwindled to 4. Those four (mentioned above) became the core Everest team and trained together for the 18-months preceding the Everest expedition. During the preparation months, Samra climbed extensively in the Alps. He also attempted Cho-Oyu (6th highest mountain in the world) but failed to reach the 8,201m summit (Camp 2, 7200m) due to being unable to fully recover after falling sick for 2.5 months and losing over 10 kg just 3 months before the expedition.
The Everest expedition began on 25 March 2007 and lasted for just over 9 weeks. On 17 May at precisely 9:49 am Nepal time, Samra became the first Egyptian and youngest Arab to climb the 8,850m Mount Everest. He was also the first Arab to climb the mountain from its Nepali South face, the same route taken by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953.
In April 2008, Samra climbed the highest mountain in Africa (Tanzania) Mount Kilimanjaro by the Machame route. So far he has climbed the mountain 5 times. In 2010, Samra helped found The Right To Climb, an initiative to raise funds and awareness for mental disability in Egypt through climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. To this day, more than 50 climbers have helped raise over $250K for mental disability in Egypt.
In August 2008, Samra climbed the highest mountain in Europe (Russia) Mount Elbrus. A day before the climb began, conflict and 'war' between Russia and Georgia broke out which was only 10 km away from the mountain itself. Despite the unrest, Samra and team managed to make it to the top. On summit day, the team faced −30 °C (−22 °F), 100 km/h (62 mph) winds and less than 5 m (16 ft) visibility which was the worst weather the mountain had seen in over 10 years.
In April 2009, Samra climbed the highest mountain in Australasia (Indonesia) Carstensz Pyramid. To get to the mountain, Samra and team had to trek days from the remote village of Sugapa through dense jungle and swamps and then do exactly the same on the way back. The trip was plagued from the start with conflicts between the different tribes that made up the porter team. In many cases the team was sent back to their camp with spear wielding locals. The customs of West Papua are a tricky business.
On 1 February 2011, Samra became the first Arab in history to climb the highest mountain in South American (Argentina) Aconcagua solo; alone and unsupported. Samra began the climb on 20 January, and when the Egyptian revolution broke out on the 25th he was completely unaware of the events in the middle of nowhere. On the 28th, Samra tried to get in touch with family and realized all phones were down. When he finally managed to go online via satellite he realized what had happened. Torn between heading back to Tahrir Square or continuing up the mountain he was already three quarters of the way up, Samra decided to keep on climbing and on 1 February 2011 he raised the Egyptian flag on the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas with the words 'Masr Lel Sha3b' written on the flag (translation: Egypt is for its people).
On 5 January 2012 at 6:45 pm Antarctica time, Samra succeeded in reaching the highest point on the Antarctic continent which marked the 6th of his attempt to climb the highest mountain on every continent, 7 in total. During his climb Samra faced -50 C temperatures, 70 km/hr winds and the challenge of living for 2 weeks in 24 hours of sunlight which disrupts ones sleeping patterns. This expedition also marks the beginning of Samra's pursuit to offset the carbon emissions from all his 7 Summits climb to achieve a carbon neutral 7 Summits challenge, a world first.
In April 2012, Samra attempted to climb the highest mountain in Alaska and North America, also known as Denali. After 22 days on the mountain, the team retreated due to severe weather conditions. This in itself was not easy; bad weather stopped the team from reaching the summit but 2 days later it also stopped them from heading back down. With food and fuel running out, they were finally able to descend the mountain and reach safety. Samra returned in 2013 to attempt the mountain one more time and reached the summit at 5:05pm Alaska time.
- Completing the 7 Summits – In climbing the highest mountain on every continent, Samra become the first Egyptian to do so. He also achieved a world first by completing the first carbon neutral challenge of its kind through offsetting all the carbon emissions from his expedition and travels.
- Completing the Explorers Grand Slam – In skiing to both geographic poles, and climbing the highest mountain on every continent before that, Samra succeeded in becoming the first Egyptian to complete what is known as the Explorers Grand Slam.
- الصباح. "عمر سمرة.. المغامر المريض - الصباح". elsaba7.com.
- samra, omar. "omarsamra". omarsamra.com.
- Article in 1st News, Azerbaijan's Leading Online News Portal
- Article in Community Times magazine
- Article in AUC's Caravan newspaper
- Article in Egypt Today
- Article in the Daily Star newspaper
- Article on Explorer's Web
- Article on the Egypt Information Service Webpage
- Article in the Italian media
- Article in El-Ahram Hebdou about the Everest Expedition
- Article in El-Ahram Hebdou about Samra's 370-day journey
- Article in China's People Daily Newspaper
- Article on the Goliath business database
- Samra at the Great Alexandria Library
- Article on El-Ahram Weekly Online
- London Business School Everest news item