On top of the world with Mostafa Salameh

There are some people who are put on this earth to do great things, and QMU graduate Mostafa Salameh is one of them. 

HIS ACHIEVEMENTS ARE astonishing, and despite coming from humble beginnings, Mostafa has shown the world that anything is possible if you dream big!

Mostafa is one of only 20 people in the world to have completed the ‘Explorers’ Grand Slam’, an adventurers’ challenge to reach the North Pole, the South Pole and all of the seven summits which are the highest mountain peaks of each of the seven continents (including Everest)!

Born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugee parents, Mostafa has not only transformed his own life, he’s impacted the lives of thousands of people through his incredible fundraising efforts and his work as a motivational speaker. If he’s not challenging himself physically by scaling the world’s largest mountains, he’s pushing the boundaries of what he can achieve intellectually and looking at new ways to help others achieve their goals.

At 52 years of age, Mostafa has a fascinating CV – mountaineer, charity fundraiser, motivational speaker and author! Such are his achievements, that in 2022, QMU, his alma mater, awarded him an honorary degree in recognition of his passion for social justice and his commitment to improve the lives of others.

But his journey had a rocky start – and it’s only by sheer grit and determination that he’s got to where he is today.

Mostafa parents met in a refugee camp in Jordan, but they moved to Kuwait where Mostafa spent his childhood. Aged 18, he relocated to Jordan to embark on a hospitality course at college. He was soon joined by his family who had to flee Kuwait near the start of the Gulf War. Mostafa was desperate to seek a better life for himself and his family, so he travelled to London, where he initially found work in the kitchen of the Jordanian Embassy.

Settling in England was challenging. Mostafa explained: “It was a massive shock at first, but it was my opportunity to support my family. My mum and dad had lost everything when they left Kuwait – my dad’s job, their money, personal possessions, everything! So, I aimed to send half my wages back to Jordan.” Discussing his challenges in learning a new language, he explained: “I taught myself English by reading tabloid newspapers and practising word and sentence exercises while I watched the children’s TV show ‘Sesame Street’!”

After many years of working long hours in bars and restaurants in England, Mostafa moved to a new life in Scotland where he was accepted onto the Hospitality and Tourism Management degree course at Queen Margaret. Recalling his time, he said: “Queen Margaret became my home. I loved the atmosphere on campus – there was such acceptance and support. My time at Queen Margaret definitely shaped who I’ve become.”

His magnificent mountaineering journey began a few years following graduation in 2000. Mostafa had a dream of standing on top of the world making the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer. Despite having no prior mountaineering experience, he was determined to turn his dream into reality.

With the support of friends and sponsors, and after four years of tough training and two unsuccessful attempts, he became the first Arab to reach the peak of Mount Everest from its south side. After several big climbing achievements, he realised he wanted his actions to have an even greater purpose – to help others! “Climbing is even better when it helps raise money for important causes,” Mostafa said.

“Fundraising is my biggest achievement, not climbing Everest or completing the Explorers’ Grand Slam. It’s the money I’ve raised to help others that’s important – for people living with cancer, refugees and children wounded by wars. I’m passionate about making a difference in the world, not just now, but for the future.” So far, Mostafa has raised over five million dollars for charitable causes!

Nowadays, Mostafa leads guided adventures all around the world, helping others achieve their dreams. When he’s not scaling the heights, he works as a motivational speaker and writer, inspiring others by sharing his life experiences.

He’s also published several books including his autobiography ‘Dreams of a Refugee’, which details his childhood in the Middle East, his rediscovery of Islam and his mountaineering adventures.

The importance of fulfilling dreams is always at the heart of Mostafa’s advice, whether he’s guiding a climb, giving a TEDx Talk to corporate clients or inspiring young people in the Middle East. He confirmed:

"We all need to have a dream. Each of us has an Everest inside us to climb - it’s not necessarily a mountain, but it’s important to have goals we can achieve. My message is always the same - nothing is impossible. I achieved my dream, and you can achieve yours. It makes for a more exciting and rewarding life."

Mostafa’s next ambition is to run seven marathons, in seven continents, in seven days. The aim is to help raise awareness and support for the plight of Palestinian refugees, like his parents, who still live in Jordan.

Mostafa’s life is an extraordinary one – a journey of determination, faith and strength. When asked about the greatest lesson he’s learned in life so far, he quotes a verse from the Qur’an: “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what
is in themselves.” Qur’an, 13:11