Sheikha Asma Al Thani has today departed with a novice all-female team from the Middle East and Europe to attempt to ski to the last degree of the North Pole. If successful, Sheikha Asma will make history by becoming the first Qatari, male or female, to achieve the incredible and highly challenging feat, which will entail skiing 100km across the treacherous terrain to reach the top of the world.
The expedition will see women from fellow Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait come together with women from European countries, Slovenia, Sweden, France, Cyprus, Russia and the UK to achieve the staggering, shared goal in order to foster greater dialogue and understanding between Western and Arabian cultures. The team will spend roughly 10 full days skiing across the shifting pack ice of the Arctic Ocean to reach the Geographic North Pole.
Speaking ahead of the expedition, Sheikha Asma said:
“I have been training so hard for over two years to prepare for this incredible challenge and now I just cannot wait to get started. I am a passionate believer in the power of personal challenge to bring people closer together, break down barriers and push the boundaries of what is possible. I hope that this expedition will inspire and empower more women to remove their limitations and see that they can achieve more than they think they can and others think they can. We should never stop challenging ourselves or give up on our dreams.
“Through this trip, I hope that we are able to create a conversation about how we can all challenge perceptions and reach beyond expectation, not just for these 10 days but long into the future. I would like to thank all the many people that have supported me in my preparations and making it possible for me to participate in this expedition, particularly my generous personal sponsors, Engie and Sports Corner.”
Sheikha Asma in 2014 became one of the first Qatari females to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in a charitable endeavour to raise QAR 2 million to build schools in Gaza, showing how the 28-year-old part-time adventurer is not new to pushing outside of her comfort zone in pursuit of greater goals. In addition to the gruelling training schedule, Asma has been juggling her demanding day-job as Director of Marketing & Communications at the Qatar Olympic Committee, as well as the Doha 2019 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
Doha’s desert landscape and climate is in stark contrast to the perilous conditions of the north pole and Sheikha Asma’s gruelling two-year training schedule has seen her participate in tailored endurance and weight sessions six times a week, sometimes twice a day to train and condition the specific muscles used to cross-country ski whilst pulling a heavy load, and build her endurance capacity to survive 12 hours straight of skiing every day. The group have also participated in training expeditions in both the heat of the Omani desert and the more North Pole like conditions of Iceland to build and strengthen their team spirit, learn how to function on little sleep and with exhausted bodies, understand how to operate best as a group and practice the practicalities of constructing a tent, whilst surviving storms and freezing conditions.
The Euro-Arabian team will be sleeping in tents on the ice when they are not skiing, and will haul in sledges everything they need to survive in the Arctic. As well as the perils of temperatures as low as minus 40C, other hazards the team will face include movements of the pack ice that may split apart to reveal open water or push together to form walls of ice that have to be crossed. There is also the threat of predatory polar bears.
The expedition will be led by veteran polar explorer Felicity Aston MBE, who in 2012 became the first person in the world to ski across Antarctica alone and without the aid of kites, machines or dogs – a journey of 1744km that took her 59 days to complete. Commenting on the expedition, Aston said:
‘We want to send a strong and positive message about gender equality during and the need for greater cultural understanding. The world is facing global problems – such as climate change – that can only be tackled with global solutions. That requires everyone talking to each other more.
The team will gather in the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard from where they will fly to the floating ice station known as ‘Barneo’. They will start their ski journey across the Arctic pack ice to the North Pole from the station.
Sheikha Asma and the team will be conducting two important science experiments during the expedition and will be sharing their experiences live from the ice with schools and via social media. For updates see the expedition website www.euroarabianexpedition.com. You can follow Sheikha Asma’s personal expedition on her Instagram account @atalthani and through the hashtag #AsmaOnIce.
The expedition is sponsored by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, as well as Engie, Sports Corner, Poseidon Expeditions, OmanTel and I Feel Slovenia.
All images courtesy of Qatar Olympic Committee
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