All the happenings, stories and snippets from the vibrant world of Serena Hotels Pakistan
This article was first published in The News on November 28 2013.
The CEO Serena Hotels, Aziz Boolani, and the embassies of the Republic of Argentina, Republic of Indonesia, Nepal, Russian Federation and USA hosted a reception to bid farewell to mountaineers Samina and Mirza Ali Baig as they embark upon the Adventure Diplomacy Expedition (ADE) attempting seven summits in seven continents.
The ambassadors of Argentina and the US, ambassador of Nepal Bharat Raj Paudyal; DHM Indonesia Shamsu Rizal; DHM Russia Dr Alexander Khozin, were present on the occasion along with adventure enthusiasts and other guests. The proud but shy parents of the Baig siblings also attended this memorable event but remained out of the limelight.
The peaks the duo will climb are Aconcagua (6962m Argentina); Mount Vinson Massif (4892m) Antarctica; Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m) Tanzania; Carstensz Pyramid (4884m) Indonesia also known as ‘Puncak Jaya,’ literally meaning victorious mountain in the local language; Mount Everest (8848m) Nepal; Mount Denali (6168m) Alaska, officially known as Mount McKinley and Mount Elbrus (5642m) Russia, a dormant volcanic mountain.
Coordinating the event, Corporate Manager Marketing and Communications, Muznah Umar, began with a beautiful and relevant quote by Thomas Edward Lawrence about dreamers, then went on to say the ADE initiative was fuelled by Serena Hotels as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility and has seen fruition with the help of the diplomatic missions mentioned above.
Addressing the gathering, Ambassador of Argentina Rodolfo Martin-Saravia said his embassy was proud to be part of an initiative that will not only show a very positive image of Pakistan but will inspire young people to follow their dreams, especially girls who have a love for adventure and sports. “We will need the support of Pakistani embassies in our countries but we will do all we can to see this brother and sister team are successful in realizing their goal.” He said Aconcagua was the highest peak in the Americas and it had been climbed once before by a Pakistani, Zulfikar Ali, who received a round of applause.
Ambassador Olson thanked the CEO Serena Hotels, Aziz Boolani, for taking the initiative of organising the ADE and had high words of praise for Samina, who, he said was a symbol of strength and resilience in a field dominated by men and how she was an inspiration for all young women of Pakistan.
Petite and pretty Samina said it had been her passion to climb mountains after hearing stories about mountaineers from her brother and it was he who gave her the opportunity to fulfil her dreams. Speaking both literally and figuratively she said we have huge problems just like the mountains in Pakistan but there no mountain that we cannot climb if we have the courage and the will to do so and concluded by thanking the sponsors for making the ADE possible.
Her brother too thanked the sponsors, especially Aziz Boolani and told of how he had stepped back from the summit of Mount Everest so that his sister could get the credit. He spoke of the first expedition to create awareness for gender equality of which a video was also screened. “We have to empower our women,” he said appearing to address the male audience, “and the best way to do it is to support and encourage them and walk beside them.”
Aziz Boolani was all praise for the siblings as well as the envoys who have rallied to their cause, stressing that everything had been finalised in only two meetings. He revealed that all arrangements for the duo’s sojourn to Kilimanjaro would be borne by Serena Hotels.
Samina Baig and Mirza Ali are natives of Shimshal valley in Upper Hunza.
Mirza has been climbing mountains for the last twelve years, working as a guide, expedition leader and trainer. Samina is a twenty three year old student and currently the only female Pakistani mountaineering professional, making history on May 19, 2013 when she became the first Pakistani woman to summit Everest.
The Baig’s Pakistan Youth Outreach (PYO) is an initiative to educate and raise awareness about outdoor activities; research work on glaciers and mountains and to promote and encourage Pakistani women in adventure sports. PYO also sponsored and completed the first Pakistan Women’s Winter Expedition. Following Samina`s first ascent of Chashkin Sar, it was renamed in her honour.