She was the first Arab woman to dive the North Pole.
In April 2016, Mariam Fardous became the first Arab woman and the third woman worldwide to dive the North Pole. She’s a doctor who graduated from King Abdul Aziz University in 2008, and has since obtained two Master’s specializations in pediatrics from Canada and the UK. Inspired by her experiences, she’s taken several trips abroad to offer her services to refugees and people in need. So, what led Mariam Fardous to dive the North Pole? It started in 2008.
“Being in the field of medicine means you study all the time. I took up diving as a hobby to help relax.” While diving proved to be an easy relaxation outlet in Saudi, Fardous was unable to continue when she moved to the UK for her Masters. She explains, “I couldn’t find opportunities to dive, so I joined archery lessons. Of course, when I came back to Saudi I switched to diving.”
The idea of diving in the North Pole came to Fardous during a conversation with her friends, “I didn’t have a proper idea about the North Pole, but many people mentioned it. When I looked it up, it seemed like a good challenge.”
The challenge to the dive is what truly attracted Fardous, “I’m adventurous and I travel a lot. The North Pole dive was the kind of challenge I wanted to do. It would take me from one extreme climate to another.” Fardous began training herself, including increasing her body weight to 60 kg, the desirable weight for diving in a dry suit.
However, getting mentally and physically prepared is not the only challenge that Fardous faced as a woman who wanted to dive the North Pole. “All this was before the Vision 2030 was announced, so I had a difficult time finding sponsors,” she explains. Along with Hussam Shukri, Fardous founded Domino Divers in order to make the process smoother. In 2015, the duo dived at Karelia in Russia to prepare for the North Pole. In 2016, Fardous spent around six days at the North Pole camp along with the team. Despite harsh weather conditions and a hypothermia attack, she dived twice and earned her achievements.
While the dive has set her apart, the people she met on the journey there really impacted her. Russia and Norway were pit stops along the way where she met many scientists, geologists and other professionals who were dedicating their lives to save Earth.
Meeting them pushed Fardous to think beyond her own achievements, “I asked myself why I was risking my life. I thought about the women in my country, the women of the Arab and Muslim world. I remembered the times people had underestimated me as a woman. It was in that moment that my message was born.”
Fardous returned to a Saudi Arabia that was glowing with the hope of the Vision 2030, a plan that would lead the Kingdom towards a more prosperous tomorrow. Under its umbrella more women would be able to pursue their dreams and aspirations; “The Vision 2030 supports women. It’s a change for everyone and it will change the mentality. Now people will listen when a woman talks about her plans, they will be more supportive.”
Fardous is also involved in many volunteering projects where she contributes as a doctor or just a helping hand. Before her dive at the North Pole, Fardous became an African Impact Ambassador and volunteered with the organization to provide pediatric services to kids in Durban. This year she went on volunteering trip to Lebanon under the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IRFC) to provide medical services to people in need. Earlier in May, she joined Seeds of Humanity on her second trip to Greece to help rehabilitate refugees and provide them with basic needs for living healthier lives.
What’s amazing is that Mariam Fardous is the first Saudi woman to train under World Extreme Medicine to complete the mountain medicine course. Being certified means Fardous is now part of a team of doctors from around the globe who will be brought in during serious emergencies on the Everest Trail.
Travel and Volunteer This Summer
Here are some organizations that you can sign up with as an international volunteer.
- Seeds of Humanity
A humanitarian organization that provides help to refugee camps in East Europe, mainly Greece. To join, simply register on the website.
- Maximo Nivel
Maximo Nivel is a top ranked organization that offers trips for a diverse set of interests such as business, social work, and medicine. They are highly focused on Latin countries and offer Spanish immersion programs. Prices start at SR 2,250 for a one-week trip.
- International Volunteer HQ
Volunteer programs with IVHQ starts at as low as SR 700. One of their coolest excursions this summer is a trip to Bali for sea turtle conservation.
- Lighthouse Relief
A Swedish NGO that gather skilled volunteers to provide relief to refugees that are stranded in mainland Greece and those arrived on Lesvos, a Greek island. They have a four-week female-only community outreach program in Ritsona, Central Greece.
- Sudan Volunteer Program
A charitable organization based in London and Khartoum that graduates and near-graduates can apply to to teach English at public higher education institutions. There are no application fees, and accommodation is provided along with a stipend equivalent to local salary for a teaching assistant.