Hamziye’s connection to the Outdoors straddles the Pacific North West United States and Oromia where she grew up. Nature is her escape but it also defines her identity as a Black Muslim woman and proud Oromo activist. Check out her blog posts for tips on hiking, photography, modest fashion and to learn how to feel accepted in nature.
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Occupation/Student: recent graduate, University of Washington
Did you grow up spending a lot of time in the outdoors: My family are originally farmers from Oromia in Ethiopia so we’re used to the outdoors. Since we moved to Washington, I started hiking a lot with my sister and my brother who are closest in age. My other siblings are all a lot younger than us. It’s usually pretty easy in the summer. We go as much as we can. When school starts its harder. We’re full time students and we also work. My brother is at University of Washington and my sister is at North Seattle College
When I moved here I assumed that in the US I wouldn’t have the same connection with nature. I thought it would just be mostly urban. My sister and brother and I started hiking because we weren’t spending enough time together. We’re usually on our phone even when we do hang out. When we go hiking we talk so much because there’s no phone connection to distract us. In the city we would be distracted right away because of our phones. Nature brings us together. We feel really connected in nature. I feel like I discover new things about them since the three of us started hiking consistently together. Usually people are uncomfortable with silence. They’re uncomfortable with stillness. We’re constantly when checking social media to fill silences and ward off stillness. Silences in nature aren’t awkward. There’s a fullness to them. You can hear and experience so many things.
On balancing the outdoors, work and studying full time
There’s an outdoor wellness program on campus. We even have a gear rental place. I used to work there last year. You can rent snowshoes, hiking shoes, rain pants. It rains here a lot and equipment is expensive. However, it’s free to the students. They just have to return it within two weeks. We also have introductory programs which organizes trips for hiking and even skiing. The goal of the program is to get city students into the Outdoors. I did that for a year or so. I used to be the leader but I don’t work for them anymore. They still do hiking trips every Friday or Saturday.
I know what you did last summer…
Last summer, I traveled to Ethiopia to visit relatives. I was in the Oromia region the entire time. I was exploring and trying to travel as much as possible. I didn’t get to explore as much as I wanted. I made videos on it. I’m eventually going to share that on my YouTube channel.
All of my family is Oromo. Our family members are the ones who are protesting back home. I usually don’t identify as Ethiopian. I identify as Oromo instead. I’m very passionate about my ethnicity. We are the biggest ethnic group in East Africa but no one knows much about us. Even though we’re a majority our history isn’t known. Our history has been oral until recently. Our language was banned until the early 1990s. A lot of my family are political activists, so I’m pretty passionate about this.
Fashion and photography
I like photography and people always tell me they like my outfit. I thought it was common. I didn’t really think anything of it. Recently, I started taking pictures and sharing them with people. Especially for Muslim girls it’s a struggle to find modest clothing that also looks cute. I like sharing them with people so they can also buy it—like a really cute skirt! I really enjoy fashion. I enjoy dressing up. I cover completely but I still like expressing myself through clothes. I combine my love for fashion and photography together.
Where’s your favorite place to hike?
I really like Snow Lake; it looks different in every season. You can go multiple times a year and it changes completely.
What are your goals for 2018?
I really want to do a marathon or a half marathon. I love running. I used to do track and field and XC in high school. Now I run on Saturday and Sunday with my sister. We’re going to do it together. She wasn’t a big runner before but I think she likes it a lot now.
My goal is to hike at least once a month during the school year. That’s when I get busy.
How diverse is your outdoor community? What does outdoor recreation mean to you personally?
I can’t speak for other states but I’m not sure that the outdoor community is diverse at all here in Washington. Even though Seattle has a strong hiking culture it’s still very White and male dominated. I remember we had an outdoor leadership conference a year ago in Minnesota. I was the second Black girl and the only visibly Muslim person in the entire conference. It was supposed to be a national conference. I was shocked that I was the only hijabi. When I started it didn’t hit me that it would be this weird thing to do for “my kind.” I just did it because it was so fun. I get to be in nature and have a good work-out. I didn’t know that it would be this weird thing. I thought that nature would be open to every single person. Which it is; but, at the same time it’s not.
I really like hiking because the world seems very chaotic for me at least, in part, due to my identity. I am a woman and a Muslim and also a Black person living in the United States. For me at least hiking makes me feel calmer. I feel accepted in nature. It has nothing to do with humans. I feel very calm and so small compared to the other part of the world. Compared to the mountains and the trees we are so little. I feel at peace and a lot better when I get back to the world. Hiking disconnects me from the world. It’s a kind of therapy especially for those who struggle daily.