Ten years ago, Mariam Hamed Fardous decided to take up diving, inspired by the incredible stories her late father used to tell her about the Red Sea. Two years ago, she went on to set the record as the first woman from Saudi Arabia – and the third woman worldwide – to dive in the North Pole.
A doctor who graduated from King Abdul Aziz University in 2008, with two Master’s specializations in pediatrics under her belt, Fardous took up diving as a way to destress from her demanding schedule. Speaking to Gulf News, the young doctor explained her love for diving, saying, “When I’m diving, I am in a happy space, and I instantly feel rejuvenated. The sea is a beautiful place to take a break.”
By the time Fardous finished her medical internship, she had also earned a master scuba diver certification from the Blue Reef Divers in Jeddah. Using her weekends to train, Fardous specialized in open water, advance, and rescue level dives, as well as peak performance buoyancy and night dives. According to the news site, she started at a time when diving was still a rarity for women in the Kingdom. Today, however, there are many diving schools in Jeddah with Saudi women divers.
As reported by online portal Destination KSA, 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 […] 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,” she explained.
However, getting mentally and physically prepared was not the only challenge that Fardous faced. She also faced fiscal obstacles so she decided to found Domino Divers with a friend, Hussam Shukri, in order to self-finance her expedition.
In 2015, the duo dived at Karelia in Russia to prepare for the North Pole, staying three weeks in order to get acclimatized to the extreme sub-zero temperatures. A year later, Fardous spent around six days at the Barneo base camp in the North Pole camp, where temperatures average at -25 degrees Celsius. Despite harsh weather conditions and a hypothermia attack, she dived twice, descending approximately 25 feet and staying underwater for 25 minutes each time. It was then Fardous became the first Arab woman and the third woman on the globe to see the North Pole from its freezing waters.
Although her father’s stories inspired her to dives, Fardous credits her mother for giving her the will and determination to pursue what she believes in, saying, “My mother has always been a great source of motivation. She has always guided me to think out of the box, taught me to believe in myself and follow my dreams.”