x

Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Colleagues pay tribute to Emirati who died after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro 

Rashid Al Balooshi was killed in a car accident on his way home from the airport after scaling Africa's highest peak

Rashed Al Balooshi, an EGA employee, reaches the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. EGA
Rashed Al Balooshi, an EGA employee, reaches the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. EGA

Colleagues of an Emirati who died just days after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro have paid tribute to a man they called the “sunshine of their trip”.

Rashed Al Balooshi, 38, was part of a ten-person team from Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) who scaled Africa’s highest peak last month.

Al Balooshi was killed in a car accident when driving home to Ras Al Khaimah after landing back in the UAE. He was just minutes from his home.

Now his colleagues have spoken about the kindness of their late friend, what it was like to scale the 5,895-metre peak and how his death has devastated the team.

The group arrived in Tanzania on September 22 and followed the Machame route to the summit, which takes longer. Gruelling treks, 15-minute lunch stops and barely any rest during the day followed - all while battling altitude sickness.

The seven-day climb raised Dh210,000 for the Al Jalila Foundation, a non-profit organisation which supports individuals in the UAE with missing limbs. All those who participated had to prove their fitness levels and write a note about why they wanted to go.

EGA team celebrates the end of a climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. EGA
EGA team celebrates the end of a climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. EGA

Al Balooshi's note, which has now taken on a special poignancy, stated how the trip would bring him closer to his colleagues.

“I feel I deserve this chance because I believe in myself and making my life a meaningful experience,” wrote Al Balooshi, who worked as an associate supervisor at the fire service in EGA.

“Going on a mountain trek can create the feelings associated with personal achievement; this is also what I am greatly looking forward to, so that tomorrow I can proudly tell my children/grandchildren that hey... your super dad has climbed the massive Kilimanjaro!! I ... want to come back with memories of a lifetime!”

For the members of the team, there were many moments when they questioned if they’d ever reach the top. But strong members helped the weak. No-one was left behind.

For Rania Tayeh, a senior officer at the government relations section at EGA, uncertainty about succeeding began on day one.

“When we arrived, I said “yeah we can do this”,” said Ms Tayeh, who is from Lebanon.

“But there are 11 kilos on your back. And then I thought, oh, I’m not sure if this is something we will be able to do.”

These sentiments are shared by Dalal Hamza, a 25-year-old Emirati who works in the human capital section. “By day four you think: "am I seriously going to go to the top of this thing? There’s no way." You just keep wondering. It’s scary but amazing.”

The most arduous part of the climb was the last few hours. Nobody knew if they were going to make it, if altitude sickness was going to hit them or they would simply be too weak to take those last decisive steps. But vital to the team’s successful summit was the contribution of Al Balooshi, who selflessly helped other members.

“He was one of the guys who stayed behind to support the other people who were affected by the altitude sickness. That meant a lot to other members of the team,” said Ms Tayeh.

On the morning of September 29, all ten members of the group reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“It was one of those moments you never forget in your life. We were screaming and screaming,” said Ms Tayeh.

A team from EGA climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise fund for Al Jalila Foundation. Rashed Al Balooshi, who died in a car accident on his way home, is pictured in yellow. EGA
A team from EGA climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise fund for Al Jalila Foundation. Rashed Al Balooshi, who died in a car accident on his way home, is pictured in yellow. EGA

Mohammed’s relative ease with which he climbed Kilimanjaro led to him being affectionately named “the goat of the mountain”, because he jumped from rock to rock.

“When he reached the top, he went on his knees and raised his hand and thanked God,” said Ms Tayeh.

But the joy of the expedition turned to sadness within hours of the team landing back in the UAE. Police said foggy conditions in Ras Al Khaimah contributed to the accident that killed Al Balooshi. He had worked for EGA for ten years and is survived by his parents, three brothers and one sister. On Sunday, the members of the team paid tribute to a man who brought so much light into their lives.

“We remember him in good moments, laughing, telling jokes, supportive,” recalls Ms Tayeh.

“He was the person who lifted us all up,” said Ms Hamza.

“He cared when someone was upset and made sure they were smiling. He was the sunshine to our trip. God rest his soul.”