HE had never heard of crampons and had to look up Everest on a map but the one time Edinburgh hotel worker who quit his job to climb the world’s highest mountain has gone on to write his name into the history books, in more ways than one.
Mostafa Mahmoud Salameh, 44, from Bruntsfield in the city, resigned from his job as food and beverages manager at the Sheraton in 2004 to embark on the life-altering challenge of scaling the 29,029ft peak.
‘I want to return home to Scotland and open a cafe’Mostafa Salameh
Friends smirked and a sales assistant in an outdoor clothing shop thought him completely mad, but he carried on undaunted.
After conquering Everest, the father of two has gone on to become the first Jordanian to scale the highest peaks on each of the world’s continents and reach the North Pole.
His endeavours have made him a national hero in Jordan. He has been knighted by the Middle Eastern state and his story is taught on the national curriculum under the heading of “Living Hero”.
Salameh is set to complete his “full set” later this year when he reaches the South Pole – becoming one of just 30 people to conquer both poles.
The story of his rise from the Wihdat Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, where he shared a room with his nine brothers, to the summit of the world’s highest mountain and beyond, is now being made into a BBC documentary.
Married to Kristina, 37, who is from Edinburgh, Salameh plans to one day return to the city that “fired his imagination” and quietly set about opening a sandwich shop. “It all began in Scotland,” he said. “I consider myself Jordanian-Scottish. I was working as a waiter in London in 1998 when I came to Edinburgh to visit the castle and just fell in love with it.
“It was in 2004 that I had a dream of climbing Mount Everest, I hadn’t even been up Arthur’s Seat but I just felt this calling to go and do it and represent my faith and show that Muslims were not how they are often portrayed. Everyone thought I was a madman for several years, I remember turning up for my first climb, Mera Peak in Nepal, with three great big duffel bags full of gear and it was a Scottish mountaineer that took me aside to set me straight.”
Salameh wishes to promote a positive global image of Islam and to inspire the next generation of Arab youth to believe in their own impossible dreams to “find their own Everest and conquer it”.
As such he regularly visits Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, he said: “If I inspire just one of those kids away from extremism and set them on the road to something else then it is a success. “Islam is a religion of peace and positivity, it is not what is shown on the news.”
In February 2014 upon leading a group of Jordanians to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania – a summit he first climbed in July 2007 – Salameh produced a photo of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh who was burned alive by Isis earlier that month.
He has also waved the saltire on the summit of Mount Everest from where he rang his wife, parents and the King of Jordan by satellite phone.
Salameh said: “I have felt pressure all through my journey but that drive to succeed and inspire people has always carried me through. Ten years ago I was working in a hotel and look what I have achieved since then. I’m just an ordinary guy but I’ve done some extraordinary things.”
Asked about his plans for the future after he returns from the South Pole, he said: “My wife is currently pregnant with our third child so that will keep me busy. I also want to return home to Scotland full time and open a small cafe. My heart is here in Scotland. Edinburgh changed my life, I met my wife, met great friends who have supported me all the way through and most important, found my dream.”
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