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Jordanian among women skiing to North Pole highlighting need for change

Expedition to demonstrate ‘importance of greater intercultural understanding and exchange’

By Aline Bannayan - Sep 05,2016 - Last updated at Sep 05,2016

Lara Al Masri trains at a gym recently to prepare for an expedition to the North Pole (Photo courtesy of Lara Al Masri)

AMMAN — An international team of women from across Europe and the Middle East will set out to ski the last degree to the North Pole in April next year in the Women’s Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition 2017.

Among the 12 will be Lara Al Masri of Jordan.

The team was brought together by world-record holding British polar explorer Felicity Aston — who in 2012 entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the first woman in the world to ski across Antarctica alone in a 59-day journey. 

Aston has led successful expeditions in the Polar Regions for two decades. 

The expedition team members will be travelling to Iceland this year to meet each other for the first time and to start their Arctic training on September 20. 

The journey across the shifting pack ice of the Arctic Ocean will bring together women from the UK, France, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden, Cyprus, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate and Jordan.

It has been dubbed by the organisers as “a record-making expedition of personal, national and global ‘firsts’”.

Several team members will be the first person from their nation to ski to the North Pole. They will rely on each other to navigate themselves safely to the top of the world, according to the organisers. 

Surviving on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow, the team will sleep in tents on the ice and pull sledges containing all the food, fuel and supplies they will need for the entire trip. 

By overcoming this adversity as a team, the “expedition will aim to demonstrate the importance of greater intercultural understanding and exchange, while at the same time highlighting the capability of women”, a statement from the organisers said.

On their return, the expedition team members will undertake a coordinated programme of lectures and school talks to share their experiences directly with the public. 

Chosen out of some 1,000 applicants from across Europe and the Middle East, team members range in age from 26 to 47, with a diverse variety of occupations, backgrounds, perspectives and levels of experience in the outdoors. 

Masri, 46, is an environmentalist who believes that it’s the people’s responsibility to nurture and stimulate respect towards the environment in order to raise an enlightened generation who can be part of a sustainable future.

Throughout her school and college years, Masri was a top-scoring basketball player and member of the Jordan national basketball team. 

For the past 24 years, her working career has been in education. She has been teaching chemistry and marine biology since 2008.

For Masri, the expedition will seek to break many barriers. 

“The whole expedition is something unknown to me. I will be stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself. There is a lot to do through this journey and I am filled with mixed feelings of anxiety and apprehension but also of determination to reach my goal,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Jordan Times.  

Explaining the anticipated routine of the team that will be skiing over the frozen crust of the Arctic Ocean — where the ice is always on the move — she said there is a possibility currents and wind will push the ice faster towards their goal; however, it might take longer if the team loses ground as they sleep and that they will have to cover much more than 100km to get to their destination.

The expedition will face multiple physical challenges — temperatures down to -40°C, polar bears and shifting pack ice — but the core purpose of the expedition is to foster greater dialogue and understanding between women from Western and Arab cultures. 

Masri said she believes in her mission to raise awareness and allow women the chance to believe in realising their potential. The issue of empowering women is something she feels very strongly about. 

“I want to encourage young women to believe in their capabilities and have faith that they have the power to make positive change,” she underlined.  

The expedition will be a personal challenge and Masri hopes that once concluded it can set in motion a sustainable programme to benefit education.

The expedition will gather in Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway) and fly to Barneo, a floating base camp located on the Arctic ice. 

They will then ski to the Geographic North Pole, covering a distance of approximately 100km in around 10 days. Estimated date of departure is April 2017.

The expedition also aims to take as many people on that adventure through the website as a main platform for sharing the details of training and preparation as well as the expedition itself with as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.

Aston, 38, has been organising and leading polar expeditions for nearly two decades, including the first British Women’s crossing of Greenland and the largest and most international team of women ever to ski to the South Pole. 

“The world is facing global problems — such as rapid environmental change — that ignore national borders and interests,” Aston says on the Euro Arabian North Pole Expedition website. 

 

“My aim in creating this expedition is to address common preconceptions between women in Western and Arab cultures and to provide some insight that could make a difference in the future.”

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