Raha Moharrak Becomes First Saudi Woman To Climb Mt. Everest

Raha Moharrak has become the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb Mt. Everest when she made it to the summit yesterday after a grueling climb.

The 25-year-old climber first had to convince her family to allow her to make the attempt, and then had to undergo rigorous training to climb the world’s tallest peak. She was part of a four-person team called Arabs on Top of the World. The team also includes Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, the first Qatari, and Raed Zidan, the first Palestinian to make the attempt. Masoud Mohammad, an Iranian, is also on the expedition.

The team is working on a rotation system with other expeditions, so the men are currently trying to make the ascent.

The team isn’t only making history; they’re also making a difference. They’re trying to raise $1 million for educational projects in Nepal. A donate button can be found on their website. This is a cause near and dear to Moharrak’s heart. She’s currently a graduate student in Dubai.

A Pre-Islamic Civilization In Saudi Arabia

The ancient past of one of the world’s most closed countries is beginning to be revealed.

Mada’in Saleh, about 200 miles north of Medina in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is an impressive remnant of the Nabataean civilization, the same people who built Petra in Jordan 2,000 years ago. Massive tombs carved out of cliffs tower over the desert. Some are decorated with carvings or bear ancient inscriptions dedicated to the dead who lie within. Around the tombs are the ruins of a once-thriving city at a key node of an extensive trade network.

The Nabataean Kingdom stretched from its capital Petra in what is now Jordan deep into the Arabian Peninsula. It grew wealthy from trading in incense from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean. Incense was used in religious rituals and burials and was vitally important for many cultures, including the Romans. The Nabataeans had a powerful kingdom from 168 B.C. until the Roman Empire annexed it in 106 A.D.

Mada’in Saleh was near the southern edge of Nabataean territory, perfectly poised to control the trade route. Even though it’s in the middle of a desert, there are good wells at the site and the Nabataeans managed to cultivate sizable tracts of land.

The most visible remains are the 131 rock-cut tombs with carved facades of a style similar to those in Petra 300 miles to the northwest. There are less grandiose attractions too. Here and there on the sandstone outcroppings are little niches that once held statues of pagan gods. Other stones have carved designs of animals dating from before the kingdom, back to an earlier people called the Lihyanites.

%Gallery-167884%Despite being alongside one of the main pilgrimage routes for the Hajj, the ruins of Mada’in Saleh were ignored for years by Saudi authorities who had no interest in civilizations before the advent of Islam. Now that’s changing, AFP reports. Saudi Arabia is slowly opening up to tourism and the site is drawing an increasing number of tourists. Last year Mada’in Saleh attracted 40,000 visitors and site managers want to double that figure this year. Most visitors are curious Saudis, but the country’s tourism office is encouraging foreigners to visit as well.

There are two museums on the site, although neither is about the Nabataean civilization. One is about the nearby pilgrimage route and another is dedicated to the Hejaz railway opened by the Ottomans in the early 20th century.

French archaeologists are currently excavating the site so hopefully more information about this southern outpost of the Nabataean civilization will come to light.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user Sammy Six]

Video: Saudi King Abdullah’s arrival procession–it’s grand

Saudi Arabia‘s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz returned to Saudi Arabia Wednesday after a 3 month stint abroad for medical treatment. Hundreds of men in white performed a traditional Bedouin sword dance on carpets laid out at the airport. With uprisings against government occurring throughout the Middle East, Abdullah is home just in the nick of time it seems. He greeted Saudis with plans for improvement and national stability.

What amazes me about this video: the large scale of his arrival procession. Just take a minute to soak in the grandeur of this event. And while you’re taking in the event’s grandeur, have fun grooving to the accompanying music.

Huge dust storm plunges Saudi capital into total darkness

Riyadh was hit by a massive dust storm this afternoon, shutting down all air traffic and forcing residents inside. With visibility under 200 meters, most traffic came to a standstill.

The video you see above was actually taken right before the capital of Saudi Arabia was plunged into darkness for most of the afternoon.

Scary stuff.

Smoking hurts on Saudi airline

For a smoker, nothing is more miserable than staring down a long flight without being able to light up. As if air travel isn’t enough of a chore, various regulations and health nuts have taken away our preferred coping mechanism. A Sudanese man fought back … and paid dearly.

According to the Daily Mail, the passenger lit a cigarette on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from Qurayyat to Jeddah. The cabin crew repeatedly asked that he put out the coffin nail, and he refused. So, when the plane touched down, he was arrested.

Saying sorry wasn’t enough.

Though he apologized in court and presented evidence that he was in a smoking cessation program, the perp was sentenced to 30 lashes. Hey, the judge wanted to prove a point. And, it could have been worse. Last April, another in-flight smoker was sentenced to 50.

Not only does smoking kill … it hurts like hell.

Though many human rights organizations condemn this form of punishment, it is quite common for a number of offenses, from adultery to being alone with a non-relative of the opposite sex. Some crimes can lead to thousands of lashes, but they are meted out in batches of 50 over a period of months.

What gets you 1,000 lashes? I don’t know, but I suspect a post-coital cig after joining the mile-high club would put you in the running.

[Via Daily Mail]

What strange things have been found on planes?