The Hillwalking Hijabi. Living Adventurously 60

Zahrah Mahmood lives in Scotland and loves the mountains. She says, "you can find me in the hills with some sort of head covering." For Zahrah is known on Instagram as 'the Hillwalking Hijabi', sharing her cheerful, joyful experiences with a fast-growing audience.

Zahrah Mahmood lives in Scotland and loves the mountains. She says, "you can find me in the hills with some sort of head covering." For Zahrah is known on Instagram as 'the Hillwalking Hijabi', sharing her cheerful, joyful experiences with a fast-growing audience. Zahrah is at the forefront of a new urgency to make the outdoors more welcoming, more diverse, more representative. I really enjoyed chatting. to Zahrah about what first got her into the outdoors, the joy it brings her, the grind of microagressions and how the outdoor community can become more welcoming to everyone.

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  • Zahrah's Instagram:
  • Zahrah is an auditor in Glasgow
  • Mountain Weather website -
  • Dark Skies app (iOS) -
  • Two of her friends from work got Zahrah into the hills
  • Two years ago she was stressing over her chartered accountant exams, so her friends took her into the hills for her birthday
  • First Munro - Ben Lomond
  • The Innaccessible Pinnacle
  • Complained the whole way up her first mountain and didn't do anything again for about a year!
  • Links the mountains to the spiritual aspects of her life
  • Her preconception was that the hills were for fit people and crazy people. 
  • I'm not the fastest or the fittest, I just enjoy hillwalking.
  • To welcome people to the hills, you should have a conversation with them before cheering them on, otherwise it can be a bit overwhelming - make sure that they actually are newcomers to the hills and not just unfit!
  • Instagram hashtags: #hillwalking #hillwalkingscotland #munrobagging 
  • A Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3000ft. There are 282. Zahrah has bagged 21 of them. 
  • Buachaille Etive Beag is her favourite peak so far.
  • Hiking with other people adds to the spiritual side for Zahrah - she doesn't hike alone. Enjoys the company and the deep chats, the philosophical and spiritual side. 
  • A lot of people think hiking and hillwalking is more complicated than it is.
  • You don't need fancy, expensive gear. Trainers are fine for some hikes.
  • Lockdown has got Zahrah planning a camping trip when she feels comfortable to do so - some Munros require a night out in a tent or a bothy
  • A glimpse at 'bothies' -
  • Despite growing up in Scotland she didn't get introduced to the mountains as a kid. She was in the gardening and computer clubs and enjoyed playing badminton.
  • Would be great to become "A hillwalking hijabi" rather than "THE hillwalking hijabi"
  • Her parents came to the UK from Pakistan
  • Karakoram Highway
  • Imran Mughal - the first British-Pakistani to cycle round the world. (PODCAST EPISODE:
  • Her parents outlined their fears about Zahrah going to the hills, then she countered them. Didn't meet resistance from her friends or family.
  • Occasional microagressions on the hills - people staring at her, or assuming she's a novice because of the way Zahrah dresses
  • Nike hijab -
  • Limited product available for hijabs to wear in the outdoors or for sport. 
  • Boots and Beards -
  • The outdoor community can become more welcoming to broader groups by having brands showcase adventurers and improving representation. Sticking a person of colour on their feed then thinking "tick, we've done it". We can see through that.
  • Brands need to take actual steps to champion diversity.
  • Not to say anything is wrong
  • The complex pros and cons of the 'black square' day on Instagram
  • Outdoors Facebook Groups - lots of racist comments / stereotyping in the aftermath of BLM.
  • Zahrah doesn't like getting dragged into other people's racist arguments
  • South Asians are at risk of many health ailments - the outdoors / hiking could be very powerful for this, if they were encouraged and welcomed more.
  • Reaching out to local community groups is a way of diversifying walking groups (and social feeds, and all aspects of your life)
  • The 80-year old version of herself would tell her to stress less, get outside more. 
  • Once you break down the obstacles and identify what they are you can overcome more than you think. 
  • What am I willing to do to overcome this barrier?
  • Would like to get more of a balance between work and adventure
  • Trying to do 30 Munros before she turns 30

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© 2019 Alastair Humphreys