A Maersk flag on Kilimanjaro

Published on 18 December 2017

Carrying her Maersk flag for inspiration, Riham Al Shafie recently became one of the just 27% of people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro within 5 days, despite it being her first climb.

“Just because something isn’t handed to you doesn’t mean that it’s out of reach” Photo: Maersk

Riham Al Shafie recalls the view from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as feeling “like a movie or something unreal”. Standing 5,895 meters above ground, she remembers that you can see the curvature of the earth clearly, the clouds looked like the sea but with mountain and glaciers.

Riham Al Shafie, a collection specialist in Finance at Maersk Line’s Saudi Arabia Cluster in Jeddah recently became one of the just 27% of people who climb Mount Kilimanjaro within 5 days.

It’s considered unsafe to remain at the summit for more than 30 minutes due to the lack of oxygen. The climb up there is particularly hard for those on the 5-day route, who have very little time to acclimatize.

“You have a feeling of being trapped. You’d get easily tired. But if you stop to take a break the cold will get in, and it will get scarier,” Riham Al Shafie, who was climbing her first mountain, recalls.

The toughest challenges

Some of her toughest challenges had come before she had even set foot on the mountain.

Coming from the coastal city of Jeddah where oxygen is plentiful, Riham had to prepare her body for the altitude acclimatization, she adopted a low carbohydrate, gluten, dairy and sugar free diet in the previous months in addition to regular exercises.

This period included Ramadan and the long hours of the cyber-attack recovery, but Riham remembers that one of the hardest challenges was “once a week the office has fast food, and we celebrate achievements with an ice cream. This was hard, at first.”

Throughout the climb, Riham Al Shafie carried two flags, one for Saudi Arabia and one for Maersk.

“When you face these harsh conditions, only a positive mind will keep you going. To me the Maersk flag is a great source of positivity,” she says, adding:

“At Maersk, there is a focus on gender equality and a trust on a woman’s capabilities. Working here inspired a shift in attitude in me, just because something isn’t handed to you doesn’t mean that it’s out of reach.”

Climbing Kilimanjaro gave Riham a range from lifelong experiences, from the lush rainforests, to walking through the rocky terrain in the clouds. But how has the experience impacted her psyche today?

“Firstly, I was very grateful to have made the decision and not to have worried about what if I’m not able to do it. It’s made me a lot more confident in going my own way and testing things for myself”, she says.


Riham Al Shafie

Age: 29

Nationality: Saudi Arabian

Family: 3 sisters and 2 brothers (4 ladies 2 gents)

First job: Part time clinic receptionist – while studying at university

Hobbies: Video games, fitness, music and group outings

Years at Maersk: 3 and 3 months

Category: News articles