Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Dubai resident wins a place on Airbnb Antarctica mission

Rasha El Saleh will join volunteers from Hawaii, India, Norway and Arizona for the four-week scientific research trip in December

UAE resident Rasha El Saleh has been selected from tens of thousands of applicants to travel to Antarctica on a scientific research mission spearheaded by Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy.
UAE resident Rasha El Saleh has been selected from tens of thousands of applicants to travel to Antarctica on a scientific research mission spearheaded by Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy.

UAE resident Rasha El Saleh will travel to Antarctica on a four-week research sabbatical with Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy.

The 25-year-old Palestinian, who lives in Dubai, is one of five out of 140,000 applicants to be picked to go on the research mission in a bid to discover more about microplastics on the continent.

Applications for the coveted slots came from more than 200 countries. Joining El Saleh on the trip will be keen environmentalists from Hawaii, Arizona, Norway and India and the team will be led by scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams.

Rasha will spend time in Antarctica collecting snow samples and visiting the South Pole to find out more about the impact of plastic on the world's most remote lands. Courtesy Airbnb
Rasha will spend time in Antarctica collecting snow samples and visiting the South Pole to find out more about the impact of plastic on the world's most remote lands. Courtesy Airbnb

“I was overwhelmed with the level of interest and quality of applications, and I’m really excited for our message and expedition to be shared by our volunteers on this global platform with Airbnb and Ocean Conservancy,” said Antarctic Scientist Jones-Williams.

El Saleh is the youngest volunteer to be selected for the trip. Brought up in Abu Dhabi, she works for Connect with Nature in Dubai, a youth conservation movement run by Emirates Nature-WWF and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

“I saw that applications for the trip had opened and I really wrote my heart out,” she told The National.

I’m a desert girl and I travel but I try to avoid cold places so this is going to be a big change

El Saleh

Having recently completed a five-day zero waste challenge that demonstrated to her the viable difference that every individual can make to the environment, she was confident with her application.

“I thought I had a good chance but I did not know that there would be anything like 140,000 applications. Now that I know that and still got this place, it’s crazy.”

“People kept asking me if I was excited, but it was more than that. I was overwhelmed and felt like I was flying,” said El Saleh.

“I’m so happy. Going there also gives me the chance to represent the region and to show the world what we are doing for the environment.”

Airbnb is sending five travellers to Antarctica for a month-long, all-expenses-paid expedition this December. Courtesy Airbnb / Christopher Michel
Airbnb is sending five travellers to Antarctica for a month-long, all-expenses-paid expedition this December. Courtesy Airbnb

The sabbatical will commence on Sunday, November 17, when El Saleh will fly to Chile to meet the rest of the participants on the trip. Afterwards, the group will travel Antarctica to spend 10 days collecting snow samples, visiting the South Pole and carrying out research.

El Saleh is currently preparing for the sabbatical. “My fitness levels are on track as I do daily martial arts which are both mentally and physically tough. I need to try to do some more conditioning before I go,” she says.

The change of temperature, from Dubai’s 35°C to Antarctica’s summer temperatures of around minus 6°C might be the biggest thing El Saleh needs to prepare for. “I’m a desert girl and I travel, but I try to avoid cold places so this is going to be a big change,” she says.

After carrying out research across some of the world’s least explored land, the group will return to Chile to work with Ocean Conservancy on the key messages they will carry as ocean ambassadors.

She’ll be back in the UAE around the Tuesday, December 17, when she’ll begin “working to educate people about what we can do locally to reduce our micro plastic pollution.”

Until then, you can follow her adventures in Antarctica via her Instagram.

Updated: October 31, 2019 02:01 PM

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