x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE skier succeeds in becoming first Arab woman at North Pole

Elham al Qasimi arrived four days ahead of schedule at the top of the world yesterday, becoming the first Arab woman to reach the North Pole.

Elham al Qasimi arrived at 90 degrees North at about 4pm UAE time, four days ahead of schedule.
Elham al Qasimi arrived at 90 degrees North at about 4pm UAE time, four days ahead of schedule.

Elham al Qasimi made history in a hurry at the top of the world yesterday, becoming the first Arab woman to reach the North Pole. Ms al Qasimi arrived at 90 degrees North at about 4pm UAE time, four days ahead of schedule. A helicopter then took her to Longyearbyen in Norway where she was met by her father. After she recuperates, she will return to her home in Dubai and share her story.

Despite being in the Arctic, Ms al Qasimi, kept in contact with supporters through her website, elhamalqasimi.com. Her first day of skiing on April 17 was a bit of a shock, despite months of training and preparation. She wrote: "My legs are strong, my endurance level is fine, but the cold brings you to your knees faster than you'd imagine, if not managed correctly." The next night she awoke to "an alarming 'qwuish qwuish' noise" outside her tent. After listening carefully, she woke her guide and signalled to him that a polar bear was outside.

Sleepily, he informed her that it was the flag outside blowing in the wind. She learnt an important lesson: "Never wake your exhausted guide up for a flapping flag!" One day a sheet of ice formed on her chest that she could not remove until the end of the day. A few days later, she crossed a body of water by leaping from one floating block of ice to another. If she stood too long, they would sink into the freezing water.

Ms al Qasimi started this journey to push her personal boundaries, but she also raised money for two causes, Promoting Equality in African Schools and the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. amcmeans@thenational.ae