You could feel the excitement in Madinat Zayed Higher Colleges of Technology today, December 27, as the Student Council welcomed Elham Al-Qasimi, the first Arab woman to travel unassisted to the North Pole, and the first UAE national to ski there.
She is the deserving winner of the Visionary Award in the Emirates Woman of the Year Awards.
The student council president, Haya Al Otaibi, who organized the visit, was thrilled when she agreed to talk to the students about her expedition. Elham said she was ‘impressed by how proactive the ladies are to make their way to college everyday from remote areas and in asking me to visit.’
After an early start and a cup of cardamom tea, she set off from Dubai on the long road toward Liwa Oasis, it isn’t quite the same as traveling to the Pole, but it’s quite a trek! On the road from Dubai, there are plenty of rest stops, to refuel, refresh, eat and drink, but during her three week journey to the pole, she received no food drops or new supplies and there were no human settlements to help the expedition.
She inspired the students with her commitment, devotion and ability to push boundaries. She described how other people supported her and encouraged her to make her dream become a reality.
The first person she relied on was herself, but she couldn’t have done it alone, it was a team effort and she thanked her title sponsors, Al Tayer Motors and Land Rover. As part of her training for the trip, she pulled a Range Rover by herself, to increase her strength.
In her talk to the students she emphasized how much work was involved in the preparation for the trip, before they even left, eating a special diet and building her fitness, balance and coordination, and practicing in the snow.
The College’s IT department arranged a live feed to Ruwais Women’s College, so that they could share in the excitement and the video will be added to the college website.
Haya Al Otaibi, President of the student council thanked her for her marvelous talk and for sharing the photos and videos of her trip.
Elham in turn said she had been honoured to visit such enterprising students and was impressed with the beauty of Al Gharbia ‘Feels like childhood memories brought back!’ and after visiting the college she went to look around the Al Dhafra Camel Festival held nearby.
You can find out more about Elham’s Polar trip on her website: http://www.elhamalqasimi.com/
Elham was born in Dubai in 1982. She was educated at the Americn University in Dubai and the London School of Economics in UK, where she earnt an MSc in the Management of NGOs.
She joined the Overseas Development Institute, a British think tank on international development and humanitarian issues and was working at the Impetus Trust, as a charities investment manager when she resigned to focus on her trip.
Working with charites is close to her heart and she would welcome donations to two in which she focusses: Peas: Promoting Equality in African Schools, http://www.peas.org.uk/ and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, PCRF, http://www.pcrf.net/