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First Saudi woman summits Mount Everest

By Bryony Jones, CNN
May 20, 2013 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Raha Moharrak is first Saudi woman to reach summit of Everest
  • Moharrak is part of "Arabs With Altitude" team, with a Qatari, a Palestinian and an Iranian
  • The expedition is aiming to raise $1 million for education projects in Nepal
  • 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the first successful climb to the summit of Everest

(CNN) -- A 27-year-old graphic designer has made history by becoming the first Saudi woman to conquer Mount Everest.

Raha Moharrak reached the top of the mountain on Saturday as part of the "Arabs with Altitude" expedition, which also includes a Palestinian, an Iranian and a Qatari aiming to be the first from his nation to summit the mountain.

The mountaineers' Twitter account, @EverestArabs, marked the occasion by tweeting: "The first ever Saudi woman to attempt Everest has reached the top!! Bravo Raha Moharrak. We salute you."

"I really don't care about being the first, so long as it inspires someone else to be the second," Moharrak, who lives in Dubai and in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, is quoted as saying on the expedition's website, Arabs on Top of the World.

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Coming from a traditional and conservative family meant that "convincing them to let her climb was as great a challenge as the mountain itself," according to her biography on the site, though they now fully support her efforts.

"We are all very proud of Raha's achievement but are awaiting for her safe return," Moharrak's brother Mohammed told CNN.

The team -- made up of Moharrak, Qatari Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, Palestinian Raed Zidan and Iranian Masoud Mohammad -- is aiming to raise $1 million to fund Reach Out to Asia's educational projects in Nepal.

Moharrak spent many months training for the expedition; she scaled Argentina's highest peak, Aconcagua, in February and has been in Nepal acclimatizing to the altitude since early April.

Read more: Google Maps climbs world's tallest mountains

She is now on her way back down the mountain and is expected to reach Everest base camp on Monday.

Moharrak's ascent is the latest step in changing attitudes towards women and sports in Saudi Arabia. The ultra-conservative kingdom fielded its first female Olympians at the 2012 Games and officially permitted sports in private girls schools for the first time earlier this month.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first expedition to reach the summit of Everest: Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay made it to the top of the mountain on May 29, 1953.

CNN's Schams Elwazer and Bharati Naik contributed to this report.

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