Palestinian becomes first Arab woman to reach Europe's highest peak

BEIRUT: A Palestinian woman has become the first Arab woman to scale Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 meters is the highest peak in Europe, and used her achievement to bring a message of peace to the world. Mountain climber Suzanne al-Houby, who is originally from Yaffa but today lives in Dubai, reached the top of Mount Elbrus on August 1.

Famous among Palestinians and climbers alike, she was also the first Palestinian woman to climb Africa's highest peak Kilimanjaro in 2002, Mont Blanc in France in 2004, and reach Everest Base Camp in Nepal in 2003.

In a recent interview with the Palestine News Agency WAFA, Houby said that she climbs to demonstrate to the world that the Palestinian people love life and reject bloodshed.

"When I climb, I send a message to the world that we the Palestinians have the will to live in peace, we look for a beautiful life, and we reject killing and destruction," she said.

Houby, who is the director of Dubai Bone and Joint Center in Dubai, encourages Arab women to get involved in such sports in order to prove that through patience you can succeed.

Mount Elbrus is the highest point of Europe, situated in the Caucasus Main Range, which divides Europe to the north and Asia to the south.

Houby also said this week that she plans to arrange a charity program for Palestinian children in the Occupied Territories. WAFA reported that she is preparing to climb the Atlas Mountains in the Spring to benefit Palestinian children.

The two main Mount Elbrus summits are about 11 kilometers to the north of the Main Range, inside European territory.

"It was a little bit after midnight on August 1st, windy and cold, I put on my five layers and started my final summit push," Houby said of the final ascent.

"I was only looking at my feet and my ice axe with my head torch for hours, occasionally, I would look at the stars filling up the sky above.

"Below on my right was the most beautiful crescent moon. Soon, the sun was rising and Val, my Russian guide, gave me a five-minute break. The air was getting thinner, half of the oxygen at sea level. My steps were getting slower but more determined," she added.

Houby also expressed hope for the end of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories in order to give the Palestinian people the opportunity to live in peace and stability. - With agencies





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