BEIRUT: Lebanon's best known explorer Maxime Chaya returned to Lebanon on Monday after becoming the first Arab in history to reach the North Pole. After overcoming -60 degree temperatures, arduous terrain and three weeks of continuous daylight out of a 55 day journey, Chaya and two companions reached the world's most northerly point on Saturday, and marked the achievement by raising the Lebanese flag.
"We are very, very excited, relieved, satisfied and ready to rest. I can't wait to sit in a chair and get dressed standing up," Chaya wrote on his website after arrival. "Though we ate more than 8,000 calories a day, we lost an average of half a kilogram (1.25 pounds) per person every two days."
"You embody the spirit of challenge and adventure," Lebanese President Michel Sleiman told Chaya over the telephone on Saturday. "Lebanon needs youth who have your spirit. We are proud of you and we know that you have faced many difficulties, strong winds and freezing temperatures, but you overcame all this."
Born in 1961, he gained national acclaim after becoming the first Lebanese to reach the summit of Mount Everest - the highest place on earth - in 2006, during a challenge which saw him climb the seven highest summits on each continent.
Chaya's North Pole success makes him the first Arab to complete the Three Poles Challenge, incorporating Mount Everest and the North and South Poles and the 12th person in history to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, achieved by reaching all of the aforementioned landmarks.
Chaya, who also boasts six other international awards, was knighted "National Order of the Cedar" by the Lebanese government in 2006.
For more information about Chaya's adventures, visit his website: http://www.thethreepoles.com