The journey of one Emirati woman to the South Pole has inspired four more Arab women to visit the frozen continent, among them is Saudi national Sahar Al Shamrani.
Sahar, along with two women from Oman and one from Qatar, will embark on a journey to Antarctica in February as part of the 2041 Expedition. They hope to raise awareness on climate change and its negative effects on the polar ice caps. The team of women are following the footsteps of Dana Al Hammadi, the first Arab woman to visit the Southermost continent in March.
Antarctica, which is twice the size of Australia, holds 99 per cent of the world's ice. It has no indigenous inhabitants but has always been home to polar bears, penguins and other animals.
"Antarctica is the only place on earth that we all own," Robert Swan, a British polar explorer who became the first man to have walked both the North and South Pole, said. "We must do everything we can to preserve and protect it," he said. "One person opened the door — Dana Al Hammadi — and that's what this expedition is all about."
Dana advised Sahar that it is not only the freezing temperatures in Antarctica that she should prepare for.
"You know Saudi culture is very closed and very restricted; not like the UAE. It will be a little bit of pressure on her starting tomorrow. She has to prepare herself on how to answer people; so pressure of the culture [is a challenge]," Dana said.
Sahar, a TV producer and interviewer at MBC, admitted that she has started feeling this pressure but she will not budge.
"What I'm doing is not easy. I started with my family, I got support from my dad, my mom, my closest friends, even at work. I know it will be possible for Saudi women to go. And these days, after our king, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, he opened a lot of doors for a lot of women. So far so good," Sahar told Gulf News. "I know ‘cause [I'm a] Saudi [national], some will agree, some will disagree [but] I'm ready."
Sahar has been through a rigorous diet and physical training for the past three months to prepare her for the expedition. She trains three to four times a week at Ski Dubai and admitted that it was not easy at first.
"The first time I went there, I just stayed for one hour. I couldn't bear the cold, it was freezing. The next time, I said, ‘Sahar, try to move your gloves and stay'. It's a challenge; I started practising. So now, Alhamdulillah, I'm ready."
The 17-day trip will start in Dubai to Brazil, then to Argentina and then to the South Pole.