Saudi woman tops Everest as country warms to women in sports
KATHMANDU - Agence France-Presse
Saudi woman Raha Moharrak reached the summit of Nepal's Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, in a first for the conservative Muslim kingdom where women's sports are severely restricted, tourism officials said Sunday.
The 25-year-old reached the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) summit early Saturday morning with a party of foreign mountaineers and Nepalese guides. "She reached the peak with 12 other members of the expedition," Gyanendra Shrestha, an official with Nepal's tourism ministry, told AFP from Everest Base Camp.
"We have been able to contact her and she is very exhausted and now resting," Hassan Moharrak, the climber's father, told AFP, adding that the family was very happy with her achievement.
Moharrak's feat is backdropped by her country's gradual warming to the idea of women participating in sports.
In a historic first for the country, two female athletes participated in the 2012 London Olympic games.
Early this month, the government allowed some girls in private schools to participate in athletics but requested the schools ensure girls wear "a covering and decent outfit" for sport activities in "suitable areas".
According to international watchdog Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that still effectively bars girls from taking part in sports in government schools.
"It's terrific a Saudi woman has been able to reach the summit of Everest," Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
"But it's worth remembering that meanwhile millions of women and girls in Saudi Arabia are still denied the right to climb in a gym or play any sports, including in state schools -- as a matter of government policy." Moharrak's Everest expedition, dubbed "Arabs with Altitude", undertook the quest to raise money for education charities in Nepal.
Hundreds of climbers will attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest peak in the coming days as a fair weather window has opened. This year, which marks the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's maiden Everest summit, has been marred by a brawl that broke out between European climbers and Nepalese Sherpas high on the mountain in April.