All Women’s Euro-Arabian Expedition Reach North Pole

On April 21, a mainly novice team of women arrived at the North Pole, after skiing for  eight days and covering 80 km across the Arctic Ocean. Although this was a commercial endeavour, and not a significant polar journey, this expedition is interesting in that it aimed to bring together European and Arabian women from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Slovenia, Sweden, France, Cyprus, Russia and the UK.

The purpose of the expedition was to foster greater dialogue and understanding between women from Western and Arabian cultures. It also aimed to inspire women to reach beyond the expectations of others.

The group was led by Felicity Aston. In 2012, Aston skied across Antarctica, alone and with two resupplies, in 59 days.

Team Leader, Felicity Aston

After nearly two years of preparation, including training in Iceland and Oman, the team left the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard on April 15 and flew to the floating ice station known as Barneo, which the Russians set up for a month or so every spring to support a variety of North Pole ventures. From here, after a brief helicopter shuttle, the women started skiing across the arctic ice.

Speaking to BBC Asian Network about the cultural awareness fostered by the expedition, Ida Olsson from Sweden said:

For me, it’s actually been very interesting to ask them questions how it is to live in their country, with their religion, their culture. I asked questions about those who only want to show their eyes, in my mind, for example it always felt it was forced, that men forced the women to do it. But when the girls here talk about it, no that’s something they actually want to do, they’re not forced to do it, and that was completely new to me.