Interview by Farah Rafik
Amira Helmy is the co-founder of Women in the Wadi, a community of female rock climbers who “come together every month during climbing season to climb, enjoy nature, share this incredible sense of sisterhood, and just have a great time!” as described by Amira. We sat down with her to know all about it.
Amira Helmy was born in the US and grew up in New Jersey. Living between the US and Egypt until her adult years, she always maintained a connection to her roots. “I always visited Sinai with my family and friends, it’s one of my favorite places. I finally made my move to Dahab permanently in July 2020,” she said.
Amira graduated from Business Management and kicked off a teaching career at a very young age. This, however, did not stop her from having sports be a regular part of her life.
“I balance between teaching online and my life here where I climb, dive, hike, exercise, do yoga and you name it! I’ve always been athletic and enjoy an active lifestyle. I’ve grown through it.” she said.
On her love for rock climbing, she said…
“I have always been drawn to the mountains. No matter how harsh they look, they always show a certain kind of beauty, power, and rawness.”
“Mountains and rocks have always inspired the adventurer within me. Climbing helps me connect and grounds me to the mountain. Feeling its energy flow through me, makes me feel more alive. Before my climb, I look at the route and visualize myself moving on the rock. It always feels like I’m dancing with the mountains,” she continued.
Rock climbing isn’t her only passion though, Yoga is too!
“Yoga helped me connect and manage my emotional intelligence, especially with releasing stress and reducing tension,” she said.
Amira Helmy believes rock climbing and Yoga go hand in hand.
“Yoga makes you more flexible and improves the muscles you use most; from a standing pistol to a plank to a downward dog, these poses help improve the control of your body when you move on the rock. Rock climbing can be very challenging and physically draining. So you always need to be conscious of your breathing.” she said.
“That’s very important, especially when you’re exerting yourself on the rock or if you’re are about to do a challenging section on the route,” she continued.
Though Amira makes mountain-climbing look easy, her path has most certainly not been free of rocks.
“Most of the challenges I face are internal. I’m constantly fighting the voice in the back of my head full of negative thoughts. I’m also fighting off self-doubt that I cannot do it, fear of failure, and fear of falling on the route,” she said.
“Nothing comes without challenges, it’s just a matter of how you deal with it. Once you overcome them, you get to explore how to reclaim that power within you and build a healthy relationship with yourself that is essential to your wellbeing,” she continued.
Another challenge Amira’s had to overcome is breaking the stereotypes surrounding Middle Eastern women.
“It is amazing how Middle Eastern women today are reshaping these perceptions and building these paths for gender equality and women empowerment for future generations.”
“I hope that I can inspire women to believe that it’s safe to unleash their strength. I also wish younger generations would go out and explore more outdoor activities,” she said.
Women in the Wadi
That’s exactly what Amira and her partner Menna Abdelrahman do with Women in the Wadi.
They launched their first event in Wadi Gnai in January 2020, with no expectations. But, they were happy to find almost 20 women turn up with shoes, harnesses, and a lot of excitement.
“We have hosted the event monthly since our launch during the climbing season,” she said.
“This collective experience is truly powerful. Everyone is filled with joy and is always looking forward to the next one.”
“We don’t only spend the day climbing during our events; we also invite the women who participate to share their practices with the group. We’ve had yoga sessions, sound healing, chanting, guided meditation, and movement therapy and there is always a dance session somewhere in the day,” she continued.
For the future, Amira Helmy plans to do a lot of traveling and mixing with different climbers from around the world and also, passing on the knowledge.
“I would love to see this sport grow into a community and raise future young climbers, especially since we have beautiful mountains to explore across the Red Sea,” she said.
As for Women in the Wadi, Amira and Menna plan to host women’s climbing retreats in the future.
“We’re hoping that Women in the Wadi can encourage more women across the Middle East to get into rock climbing and enjoy the outdoors. We want to build this into a platform that features, inspires, and empowers women across all mountain sports in the region. And, to have events where we share that experience in womanhood,” she concluded.