“I want to extend my warmest appreciation and gratitude to Sheikh Hamdan for his gracious patronage of the event.”
Being the first woman ever to swim the entire length of the River Thames in London – all 162km – was not enough for Saudi dentist and humanitarian, Dr Mariam Saleh Binladen. So much so, that this weekend she set another impressive record by becoming the first swimmer to cross the Dubai Creek and the Dubai Water Canal.
At 5am on Friday, while most residents lay sleeping in their beds, Mariam set off from the canal’s Dubai Creek entrance in the Al Shindagha to embark on a selfless feat as part of her continued pledge to support orphaned Syrian refugees. Covering a total distance of 24km, Mariam completed the feat at 2.10pm after landing up at Al Ghubaiba Station next to the Four Seasons Hotel. After battling nine hours and 10 minutes through strong currents at the entrance and mouth of the canal, an exhausted Mariam said she was “thrilled and delighted” to become the first person to complete the 24km swim along the “wonderful, yet challenging, Dubai Water Canal”.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, this incredible feat will now be added to a long list of selfless acts which she has spearheaded for the sake of refugee children. It will also see her add yet another string to her tally of world records.
In 2016, Mariam undertook a series of incredible, world-record breaking initiatives. As well as becoming the first woman to cross the River Thames, the UK-born, Jeddah-raised dentist also became the first Saudi woman to complete an assisted swim across the English Channel (34km),.
And in 2015, she swam the Hellespont open water swim in Turkey. Upon crossing the finishing line she was noted as the first Saudi female to complete the race from Europe to Asia. Working alongside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Mariam has so far raised more than half a million dollars for children in Syria through her challenging swims, and she said she will continue to do so.
Friday’s event, held in collaboration with the Dubai Sports Council, the Dubai Maritime City Authority, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and the Dubai Police and Marine Rescue, saw Mariam pass through some of Dubai’s most striking landmarks, but she managed to kept focused as exhaustion set in.
After reaching the finishing line, she thanked all who supported her. “I want to extend my warmest appreciation and gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his gracious patronage of the event, and to the team members who worked really hard over the past month to make this great event a memorable success.”
And in an appreciative nod to all that turned up to cheer her on, Mariam said their encouragement helped her complete the challenge. “It was a very challenging experience indeed, given that my preparation time was extremely short, barely one month of preparations to make this event happen.
So, I am really happy to have completed the swim successfully, which would not have happened without the amazing support of my family, my crew, my trainer, Fiona, the team from DSC and all the other parties that were involved in this event,” she further added.
She said the event was part of her continued efforts to raise awareness for the plight of thousands of orphaned Syrian refugees who have lost their parents and guardians, and have been uprooted from their homes, and scattered across different parts of the world.
“I also wanted to motivate more and more women from the Arab World to take on sports and use their talents to achieve the unachievable, knowing that nothing is impossible,” she said.