A date with Antarctica

Zeena al Towayya, the first Omani woman to visit Antarctica, has an important message from the expedition and this is about stepping up conservation efforts to fight climate change.

Interestingly, she has become a positive change maker who does not seek a regular job but rather a challenging one that makes best use of her creativity, innovation, hardwork, team capability, leadership qualities and individual strengths.

An IT professional, Zeena was part of the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2041 team that explored a remote Antarctic peninsula known to have one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth.

IAE organises trips to the Antarctic for education, study and to explore its wildlife, landscape and learn what can be done to protect its environment, particularly in view of global warming and climate change. She is now working as tender coordinator - environment at Ray International.

On February 27, Zeena joined a team of 72 people from all over the globe in Ushuaia, Argentina, from where they began their journey by ship to the Antarctic. The group was led by Robert Swan, the founder of IAE 2041 who is a polar explorer and environmental leader and the first person to have walked to both, the North and South Poles.

“After being part of the 72-member team which strives to create environmental awareness, I feel I am now responsible for informing, engaging and inspiring Omani youths to be proactive and take up initiatives that will protect the environment for the betterment of our future. Since I came back, I have given presentations to different companies, colleges and schools about issues concerning our climate and how we need to conserve it,” she said.


“The expedition taught us about safe sources of energy, green environment and sustainability and I was able to acquire leadership skills and tools to promote positive changes. I am glad to be part of a team that aims to promote recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat climate change.

“Now, I am looking at how to use that knowledge in my day to day life. In fact, I have told my family members that I have started collecting plastic bottles which I plan to use for my forthcoming sustainable fashion design project,” she said.

Zeena, who graduated in computer engineering from the Caledonian College of Engineering, got the invitation to join the programme after meeting Swan at Mosaic International Summit 2011 in Qatar, a leadership programme introduced by Britain’s Prince Charles.

Zeena is the third Omani to take part in the expedition after Bader al Rahbi and Ali al Esry in 2011. “Being the first Omani woman to visit there, I believe other Omani women can do it too. Moreover, another Omani woman, whom I am now preparing both physically and psychologically, will be visiting the Antarctic next year,” she said.

Zeena was hoping to convince Oman to sign the protocol for the Antarctic Treaty, which has 44 other countries as signatories. “The agenda of IAE 2041 is to preserve Antarctica’s ecosystem and unique wildlife and promote recycling until the year 2041, when the protocol on environmental protection for the Antarctic Treaty, also called the Madrid protocol, comes up for review. I just wish Oman sign too.”

About her experience in the Antarctic, Zeena said the place is almost indescribable. “There are no words to describe the view. Going to the expedition wasn’t easy as I had to face lots of obstacles. Only a few sponsors came forward. I was disappointed at first, but not demotivated. But I am glad I made it there.

“The temperature always remained sub-zero and the weather was windy and cloudy. The place has majestic glaciers and icebergs,” Zeena said.

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