“...Memories of the ocean, the sands, and crowded markets all felt a million miles away. I was on the top of the world, with nothing before my eyes but aeons of silence and the gates of the heavens. The bitter cold in the evening struck me harder than the dry deafening heat that pierced through my Litham Veil in the Sahara. With the air so thin and a climb so harsh and steep, my body was pushed to its limits, with nothing to hold me but my own hands. I relied solely on myself, and thus the hardest challenge of my life had begun. My journey across the Himalayas.
The first part of the journey was the toughest, for as walked deeper and deeper into the Himalayas, the mountains became increasingly high and the trails increasingly steep. I tried to stick to the valleys where the hike was most forgiving and where fresh water from the eternal snows above kept me alive. At night I sheltered mostly in the dense forests that coated the valleys or occasionally the caves that dug themselves deep into the heart of mountains.
A few times, I would cross paths with Sherpas, and all with a heart as big as the mountains that surrounded us would aid me in any way they could. The mountains were their home and the altitudes affected them in no way. Although withered in their faces and small in their bodies, their strengths felt almost supernatural.
The Sherpas knew the mountains better than anyone else, and being in their company was reassuring, to say the least.
I was unable to communicate with them for they did not know my language and I did not know theirs. However, the comfort expressed through their smiles helped me connect with them in a still profound way. For a smile is universal, and in all of its emotional eternity, is understood by all.
Before I had left on my journey, I spent a lot of time reading and researching about the mysterious and legendary ancient city of Shambala. It is not clear if it ever existed and where it might have been, but I figured that if mentioned in so many historical writings, there must be some mysterious truth to it.
I had always wondered how much of the world we had discovered and how much was left to still be discovered. Being in the Himalayas made it obvious that, we, as humans are not dominant, we are just a product birthed from the conditions that our world has given to us. Mother Earth may seem fragile at times, but she is still, and rightfully so, far stronger than us.
If the city of Shambala had never been found, its whereabouts would forever remain in the secrets of the Sherpas. For as far as I witnessed, these people were not corrupted by the same evils as where I came from.
Walking through the high mountains of the Himalayas, across its eternal rivers and silent forests, I quickly understood that the Himalayas are sacred lands with mountains as Deities and demons haunting in the darkness.
Whether or not Shambala could ever be found, its spiritual presence is very real, and just like uncharted treasures which are to remain hidden, Shambala was probably the biggest treasure of them all.
I tried to make as much ground as possible in the company of Sherpas, because for the first time on my journey, being alone in nature got me scared. I had underestimated the harshness of this unforgiving environment.
I kept thinking about the letter that I had found from my mother back in Cairo. I could read her fear between the lines, but I knew her fear was of strangers and people rather than the wild. It was understandable for it is because of humans her first son is gone. However, from my journey, I quickly learnt that outside of the eyes of politics and war, most people look for no harm, and maybe the greatest danger of all was not humans but a place absent of them.
The beauty of my surroundings gave me all the strength that I needed to carry on, and after many days of walking, I eventually reached a sight more powerful than anything I had ever seen before. As I climbed this little rocky hill that followed a stream upwards to a higher valley, I came face to face to what Sherpas call the Mother of the World, and what I had always known as Mount Everest. Its snowy peak glowed brightly as it reflected the sun that was shining bright that day. I was at the feet of the highest place in the world and I contemplated the thought that if I was able to climb it, I would be closer to the stars than anyone had ever been. I resisted the temptation as I knew I would not have been able to climb and live to tell the tale.
My journey through the wilderness of the Himalayas was tough, perilous, and unforgiving but as the days went by, I started to see more and more Sherpa along the way. Soon, villages and temples grew in numbers and the trails that I followed also looked more and more travelled. This was reassuring, for although I had no certainty of it, I could feel that I was getting closer to finally reaching Lhasa.”