In a span of seven years, SAMIYA SINAN MOHAMMED AL JAHWARI, a hiker and coach/training specialist (for ladies and children) lost four very dear and close members of her immediate family. Losing them sent Samiya down a spiral of grief, despair and depression.
World of hiking
Anyone would go the same way Samiya went. Or maybe even disappear under the avalanche of sadness that thundered on her. But, even as she swayed between pain, loneliness and despair, she still managed to make a conscious effort to step out of the darkness and into light — into the world of hiking. A step that changed her life. Or, rather, as she notes, “brought her back to life”.
Lost her way
Between 2003 to 2010, Samiya lost her sister, nephew, mother and brother. “I was sad and depressed. I had no clue about how to handle my losses. I withdrew from everything, became a closed person and stayed from all social occasions, people – everything.”
A profound sadness engulfed and she lost her way, she confessed.
Hiking – a life changer
But then as she slowly tried to find her way and herself, she stumbled into hiking. “I can say that hiking changed me wholly. I turned into a positive person. I came out of my seclusion; started seeing only good in me as well as others. “My life transformed, with nature becoming my twin personality. In other words, hiking brought me back to life,” Samiya said, in remarks made to the Purple.
Making others happy
Samiya also believes that hiking gave her an opportunity to help others. “I feel proud when I see others happy with their achievement(s), their tired, but glowing faces with a gleam of accomplishment in their eyes,” she said.
Climbing new heights
Soon after that dark phase of her life, Samiya set about climbing new heights. In 2016, she set up the Mirzum Social & Tourism Services – of which she is the Ceo. A year later, in 2017, she became a professional hiker. And true to someone who loves nature, she is also a writer and a poet.
Loving the great outdoors
After discovering the world of hiking, a sea change swept Samiya’s life. Inherently, she confesses that she is a social person and quite creative. She loves the great outdoors and any activity related to that; travelling; meeting new people, etc. “Basically, I like helping others, sharing experiences,” she noted.
Samiya always dreamt of living a life filled with adventure. “I remember writing about this dream of mine in one of my diaries in 2009. But at that time, I had no clue on how to embark on such a life.” Those who know her well vouch that by her very nature, she is an adventurous woman.
Meeting another avid hiker
Then, in 2017, by chance, Samiya met a girl who was an avid hiker. “She was constantly on hiking trips and I was quite impressed by her and her life of hiking. She invited me to participate in a hike on the occasion of the Omani Women’s Day. And this was my very first hike. Trekking along with the girls, I was unaware that the dream I had nurtured close to my heart was about to come true, and that my desire to become an adventurer had become a reality,” Samiya happily recalled.
First-ever hiking team
Then, she met her hiker friend again, for the second time. At this time, a bright idea was germinating in Samiya’s mind and she spilled it out to her friend: why not establish the first hiking team for women in Oman? The reply to that query came to fruition after a mere hour and a half. “We established the first women are hiking team and called it Mayzoon Hiking team (@mayzoon_hiking) in Oman. Later, we discovered that even in the Arabian Gulf there was no special hiking team for women.
Achievement for all Omani women
“Establishing the first women’s hiking team was one of the achievements that I am proud of today, tomorrow and forever, because I do not consider it an achievement for me alone, but for all Omani women,” Samiya said proudly.
Over 100 hikes
She has led more than 100 hiking trails with the participation of more than 3,000 Omani and non-Omani women, and organised hiking programmes for many local companies. “I also cooperated with personalities interested in this sport and its development, such as the Healing Walks programme, the leadership programme for girls, and the leadership programme for women, which we implemented three times in Dhofar,” Samiya said.
Wakan Village Hiking
Wakan Village Hiking was the first hiking programme that they organised. “Our goals were to highlight the status of the village as a tourist destination and spread the culture of hiking among women. This was on the occasion of the 47th National Day, and we decided that 47 women would participate with us,” she said, adding that it went beyond their expectation as more than 150 women registered. “This was a strong motivation for us to continue organising other hiking programmes.”
A world of sights, sounds and fresh air
Samiya then went on to explain what hiking meant for her: “For me, hiking is not just walking – it is beyond that. It gives you a chance to see some beautiful sights, which you may not have seen before. Beautiful sights; wonderful sounds of nature and most importantly, you also get to breathe fresh air.”
“Besides, it is a powerful cardio workout, which lowers the risk of heart disease, improve the blood pressure, improve balance, and help control our weight, boost our mood and boost bone density.
“And the best part is that it liberates you from all daily and intellectual pressures. You get a chance to clear your mind and create a new space for creative ideas that contribute to improving the level of individual skills and developing his personal capabilities. Hiking also gives opportunities to experience a variety of new outdoor experiences that will contribute to living happily and appreciating life in all its aspects,” Samiya enthused.
Demands of the work
She explained the demands of being a professional hiker. “I am a professional hiker because I practice, train, and hike three to four times a week. With my friend whom I took up hiking, I created the first hiking team for ladies in Oman. Then, later, we went our separate ways with our own vision and plans.”
Samiya also joined many other hiking teams, learned new things, trained herself, discovered hiking trails, gained practical experiences, which makes her a proud professional hiker. “Hiking is not something you can acquire overnight with a certificate — it is gained by actual physical hiking, knowledge of physical fitness, the intricate details of the trail path, location, height, time, weather (rains, wadis etc), the complete plan of the hiking location and the third part, which is the most important one is the safety aspect, what one will face in the path, and what to be aware of in case of emergencies. I hiked all the trails possible, and I studied them.
“For example, let me explain the Riyam hiking trail, which is around two to three kilometres, two ways. It is a medium range hiking. I trained that path over 25 times to thoroughly learn and train myself so I will be competent enough to take a team with me. It took me a lot of effort, planning, learning, training before I set on a trail with a group. Today, I can take a team of five to 15 ladies with me on the Riyam trail confidently ensuring utmost care and safety.”
Samiya took many courses in first aid, fire fighting, fire warning and became a certified first aider. “This helps me in the hiking; I can confidently face all the emergencies that I have to deal with when I lead a hiking trail,” she said, adding her sound training in safety and first aid and the knowledge of that gives an extra dose of confidence to the participants. They know that they have someone to depend upon if things go wrong.“For the last six years, I have been successfully doing hiking trips for ladies and kids.”
She unveiled the six parameters for a successful hike: “They are: knowing the weather; all hiking requirements; proper physical fitness; complete safety procedures; all emergency contacts in place from the start of the hike and good team strength. These are the six crucial parameters for a successful hiking trip. Along with these comes the understanding of the team members, so you can safely lead and guide them.”
Training helps a lot
Samiya also underwent various training courses like NLP (neuro linguistic programming), communication skills, leadership, time management, safety courses, LEAD auditor etc. “All of these courses helps me in successfully coordinating the hikers safely. The LEAD auditor course helps me in consistently managing the quality processes of the hike events we organise.”
Importance of family support
Samiya speaks candidly about the challenges she had faced, especially during the early period, when she had first stepped into her job as a professional hiker. “I come from a traditional Omani family.
To hike we need to wear sportswear, not the traditional abaya; I have to deal with all nationals, all genders; I have to give my mobile numbers to all; I would have to go out often and work would take me away from home.
Initially, I went forward and did my job with passion. At that time, my family members actually questioned me, and I did not feel comfortable answering such questions and did not answer them. But, as years went by, I realised the importance of family approval and support of whatever that you do; I realised that I need my family support, so I explained in detail what my work entailed. I declared to them that this is the new Samiya and nothing that I do will put the family to shame.
Therefore, I keep my standards well within our culture and I believe in Almighty Allah and I will never go astray. My culture and tradition along with my nation is very precious and important to me.
Family into hiking too
Today, I explain to my brother — who initially was against the idea of my hiking — every hike I do. I detail to him the hike trail, the team I am taking, etc, not because of any guilt, but because I wanted my brothers and siblings to be proud of me and my work. I have convinced them of the work, my passion and involvement in hiking, and my brothers are also good hikers now.
It is with pride I say that I have guided my elder siblings as a team leader; I can see pride and acceptance in their eyes. I can say I am successful because they have accepted the idea of hiking and are ardent hikers today. My friends, my neighbours, my relatives, cousins, and my maid are into hiking.”
When Samiya established her company in 2016, she took a CR (commercial registration) for fashion apparels and thereby rents out dresses for occasions. But since it was not a very profitable business, she shut it down.
“In 2017 I started hiking, with a team of volunteers. So I revived my old CR and added social and tourism activities and changed the name to Mirzum Social & Tourism Services.
No age limit
Samiya organises easy hike trails for kids from ages six to 11; open hike 12-18; packages for families which I plan accordingly keeping in mind the ages of the family members. And all hiking trips are for ladies and kids, that is my specialty. There is no upper age limit for hiking; it all boils now to physical ability. As long as there are no severe medical conditions, there is no age limit.
Hiking adventures in Oman
Her tourism company is located in Muscat; but her work takes her all over the Sultanate. “I have done hiking adventures almost all over Oman. I deal with many tourism activities, not just limited to hiking, camping, city tour trips’ customise tour packages catering to the needs of the family.
Although I started the business in 2017, I am still struggling to achieve financial independence. “But I am hopeful to complete my loans shortly and move positively forward. I need support financially to grow and evolve, which I am sure will be part of my future business plans.”
Impact of COVID
“Actually, 2020 was a silent year, we did not get any business and it was a challenging year. I used 2020 to develop my skills. I attended 28 plus training programmes in developing business in general and related, kept myself busy and learning.
“I have created a good reputation and have focussed on providing an amazing experience to the hikers. So I am hopeful I will grow not just financially, but will also develop businesswise and garner good clients.”
Samiya has done quite a number of hiking programmes. “The one that I did in Azerbaijan was the best. It was quite a difficult, but an amazing hike. I speak about it every time I get a chance. This hike involved five of us; three ladies from the UAE; two from Oman – I and one from Khasab — totalling five. The event as such was a leadership programme. That was an unforgettable trip and it taught me more leadership skills; taught me how to lead; how to energise and motivate.”
The Azerbaijan hike was special in another way too. “During the hike, we achieved a milestone. We were the first ladies’ team who reached the Griz village water falls in Azerbaijan; we were told our ladies team’ was the first one to reach the trail not just from the Middle East, but globally.”
Hike at least once in your life
What did she have to say about the safety aspects of hiking: was hiking safe? “Yes it is perfectly safe for all. I would say that you must hike at least once in your life. I would exhort everyone to do it.
“And really, hiking is not just walking on trails – it is an exercise for your soul. It lifts both spirits and your morale.”
Oman’s many hiking trails
There are many hiking trails in oman. “We have the Riam trail, the Sidab beach trail, we call it hidden beaches trail, an amazing trail, Saal steps, Qantab trail — these are a few names that easily come to my mind.
“If you get a chance to go hiking, grab it with both hands. Go out and try to hike. It will give you a new experience with a new view, meeting new people; it will be a breath of fresh air from the monotony of routine life. It clears your mind, makes you think about world out there; teach you new techniques and gives you a new perspective to your outlook on life.
“It takes your mind off from the daily stress. You will be able to manage your stress, happiness, visions, goals, physical and mental well being. Imagine your day; you get stressed out with mundane things, get drowned in daily work and other similar routines that take away the spirit of life. Now imagine yourself at the bottom of a hill, at the beginning point, looking up at the top of the intimidating mountain… you would doubt a minute, why am I here; how am I going to scale this, climb?
Why am I here?
Here comes the main and the all important question: why am I here? On a normal circumstance when you ask this question, you may not a have a finite answer, but here you will. You will be taught to climb, overcome and reach the top point of the destination charted out for you.
It’s not easy to convince people to go hiking, since they don’t know what the experience is.
Most of them lack the confidence of whether they can do it. I take videos of the most challenging points in hiking, show the prospective hikers how other ladies are doing it, if they can, so can you. I convince them, tell them about the challenges, how we will be safe throughout; I motivate them.
The point is I know what I am doing — so I answer all their questions, apprehensions, and at the end of the hiking it is a Thank you Samiya! All of them have the same reply, “Samiya, this is exactly what you told us the experience of hiking is!!”
Hiking is a soulful life experience, even though it is a physical adventure, which makes you push yourself to perform better, it also makes you realise your physical and mental potentials.
Hiking has its share of challenges
“I faced many challenges because of lack of experience. But once I got the hang of it, I began to get better. The physical part of hiking is not the challenging part; we have well-planned processes in place, and risks are reduced to a minimum.
“The handling of a group of people, who mostly come with apprehensions, fears, and a closed mind, is the most challenging part for me. Some are very obstinate; some miscalculate the physical fitness part and ignore the instructions, pulling back the whole team.
Financial challenges too
Running a hiking business has its own financial challenges. “I wish to invest more on equipments and hiking gears so that I can provide better safety and training services to the participants.”
Many great moments
“I can safely say I have had many great moments. As far as a hiker is concerned, every time we complete a hiking trip, we experience some of the finest moments in our lives. The group shine together in their moments of triumph, happiness; seeing a first-time hiker ‘whoop’ in happiness after completing the hike is my greatest moment. The feeling of “I did it” is the best!
Finding the missing self worth
“We once had a group of homemakers, where a lady weighing over 100kgs took part. I had my doubts about her being in the group. I wondered whether she was pushing herself beyond her physical capacity, since she might be feeling she was unappreciated at home. But human mind is a wonder of its own; she completed her hike very well, the whole group waited for her to complete, cheered her up with claps and applauses. Her glowing face is a moment I cherish; a moment that made me feel that I am in the right field. They say you rise up to an occasion to prove it to yourself, not for others. And then little do you know it, you will find yourself being rewarded with your missing self worth.
Currently Samiya has family responsibilities. She has to take care of her family members. “So, I am still dependent on the job and the salary. I want to resign and fully focus on the tourism business, which is my passion, where I perform with happiness and gratitude.”
Hiking is not business – its life
Samiya’s dream is to perform better and give everything to the tourism sector of Oman. “I know one day I will be able to make a significant contribution to the tourism sector. I see myself as a businesswoman in the tourism sector with my own company and employees managing the business. It is just a matter of time. Hiking is not business, it is life. Hiking is the goodness of life, the goodness of nature, and the people.”
In the future she hopes to have a company that will provide full fledged social and tourism services; assist and support locals and to diversify the hiking trips all over Oman. “Since I am a trainer and coach, I will specialise in that field too.
“Oman has a perfect terrain for hiking, which enhances the tourism potential. I plan to promote that in a better professional way for the ladies and children,” she vowed.
ABOUT:SAMIYA AL JAHWARI lives in Al Amerat. Her siblings are living in Suwaiq. By profession, she is a training specialist. She is also the Ceo of Mirzum Social & Tourism Services, which was established in 2016. She has become a professional hiker since 2017. Besides that, she is also a writer and a poet. She has a diploma in higher education – business administration from Majan University College – Muscat Oman; trainer in QMS, HR, L&D, tourism and hiking.