This weekend, Egyptians woke up to the news that mountaineer, adventurer and all-round action man, Omar Samra, can now also add ‘astronaut’ to his already impressive list of achievements, after being chosen by the AXE Apollo Space Academy to fly into space.
Now, on paper, the idea of an Egyptian going into space might be terrifying; Se3eedy Fel Gam3a El Amrikeya comes to mind as a standard-bearer for an underdog Egyptian venturing into the unknown. But Samra is no ordinary man; at the tender age of 35, this is a guy who has kicked ass all over the globe.
The Time He Discovered his True Calling
During a 1994 summer camp in Switzerland, a 16 year old Samra saw, and fell in love with, snow for the very first time. It was at this moment that his adventurous instincts set him on the path, after being given an opportunity to climb a mountain at the Swiss Alps. What's more impressive that Samra had suffered from pretty severe asthma in his early teen years.
The Time He Left His Banking Job to Travel the World
Defying the wishes of every Egyptian mother, Samra left his HSBC banking job in Hong Kong to embark on an epic 370-day trip across Asia and South America. During this time, Samra really got stuck into mountaineering and the trip took him from China, Mongolia and the Himalayas of Nepal, to Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil, with plenty of stops along the way. Rumour has it that Samra travelled on a $20-per-day budget.
The Time He Became the First Egyptian to Conquer Everest
In March of 2007, Samra embarked on a nine-week trek that saw him become the first Egyptian - and youngest Arab - to climb Mount Everest. The expedition had proved to be a tricky undertaking before Samra and co even stepped foot on the Himalayas; over thirty interested parties dropped out after a month of training in Scotland, leaving a core team of four people - Samra, Brits Ben Stephens and Victoria James, and South African, Greg Maud. But things got worse before they got better; during more intense training in the Alps and the sixth highest mountain in the world, Cho-Oyu, Samra fell ill, losing 10kg in less than three months.
But despite the setbacks, On May 17th at 9.49AM Nepal time, Samra reached the peak of Everest and created history.
The Time He Climbed Kilimanjaro
In 2008, Samra's appetite for height brought him closer to home, as he climbed Africa's largest mountain, Kilimanjaro. He has since gone on to climb the mountain a total of five times, during which he established Right to Climb; an initiative that aims to raise awareness and money for the institutionally ignored mentally disabled in Egypt. As one of Samra's particular points of pride, the initiative has gone on to raise over 1.5 million LE.
The Time He Defied War to Climb Europe's Highest Mountain
Only a few months after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Samra set sail on his next adventure; the highest mountain in Europe, Mount Elbrus. At this point in his career, Elbrus should have provided few problems for a man of his experience. However, just 10km away from the mountain, war broke out on the Russia-Georgia border only one week before the trip. Never one to back down from a challenge, though, Samra and his team persevered, while also battling the area's worst weather conditions in ten years.
The Time He Survived Tribal Conflicts to Climb Carstenz Pyramid
2009 saw Samra travel back to Asia, this time to conquer Indonesia's Carstenz Pyramid. Hiking through the jungles and swamps of Indonesia, Samra's expedition was caught up in local tribal conflicts in the province of Papua and were forced to retreat to their camp several times. Despite potential wayward spears and whatnot, Samra once again kicked ass and added another notch on his belt - or harness, if you will.
The Time He Completed the Seven Summits
By climbing the highest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley, in April 2012, Samra became the first Egyptian to climb the highest mountain on every continent and joined an exclusive list of less than 300 people to have achieved the feat. Following the historic triumph, Samra had been quoted as saying that the North and South Poles were next on his list of adventures, but something else has come up...
The Time He Became Egypt's First Astronaut
It doesn't get any bigger than this. After a year of hard work at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida, Samra was chosen along with 22 others to travel into the forever mysterious abyss that is space on the Space Expedition Corporation's XCOR Aerospace Lynx aircraft - the same type of aircraft is marked to begin flying customers into outer space in 2015.
And so while the majority of us spend the next few years flinging faeces at each other in Tahrir Square, Omar Samra will be creating a legacy. The acclaim that has surrounded Samra's past and future achievements isn’t only deserved because of what he has done, but because of the passion, humility and modesty that he shows in doing so.
We need more Omar Samras.