Discovering Altitude Without Attitude

Yosra Koura - Nov 19, 2014

Exploring the world as if it were our own backyard has become a right rather than a privilege for me and my Gen-Y peers. Our global citizen status makes any true sense of identity or belonging rather abstract and obscure.

And so for me, an Egyptian by birth, I figured summiting the highest peak in the Arab World, Mt Toubkal, would be my tribute to my Arab identity. After all, Morocco in Arabic translates to ’The West’ as it denotes the farthest west the Arab World could perceive.

I was set: I would go to the extreme geographic limit where I could identify and be identified as an Arab.

I started my journey: Young. Entitled. Arab.

Armed with a climbing pole in my right and a camera in my left, I was ready to conquer this Arab mountain and have my virtual world witness it. As I trekked the rugged Atlas Mountains, a new perspective began seeping into my consciousness.

I was just a speck on this mountain, one of many stretching past the horizon in all directions; nothing is significant and everything is transient. With the rising altitude, I gradually lost my self-centered Gen-Y attitude. At 4,167m above sea level, we finally reached the summit. Once again, the cameras – the rude relic of a detached modern life we so clearly wanted to leave behind even if briefly – came out and the attitude quickly came with it.

Sure, it’s great to capture a significant achievement using photography. But, next thing I remember, I’m grabbing for the Egyptian flag (which a fellow summiteer had brought along) and striking poses with my nation’s banner at the summit of my tallest Arab mountain. Looking back, I think I missed the point. Endless skies ahead, I sadly could not see past the limiting horizons of my national identity.

I look at that picture on Facebook and think: Young. Blessed. Unchanged. I believe travel is meant to open our eyes to the world we live in. It should make us realize that beyond ethnic, national, racial, religious and gender differences, we all share a home on Earth. Mt Toubkal is not my Arab peak any more than the Nile is my Egyptian river. Next time I reach new heights, I hope to lose the attitude that keeps me stuck at lower altitudes.

 Yosra Koura