RIYADH: Farouk Saad Hamad Al-Zuman, the first Saudi to leave his footprints on the earth’s highest summit, was felicitated at a ceremony held in Riyadh on Tuesday night by the New Zealand Embassy.

Al-Zuman — nicknamed “Hillary of Saudi Arabia” after Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who was the first man to reach the top of Mt. Everest — was commended for the courage and conviction he showed in climbing the mount in May last year.

“Climbing the summit of Mt. Everest was not only a remarkable achievement for Al-Zuman personally, but a feat of outstanding endurance rightly applauded throughout the Arab world,” said New Zealand Ambassador Trevor Matheson during the ceremony.

The event was attended by a large number of Saudi officials and foreign diplomats, including Alaudeen Al-Askary, chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Abdullah M. Al-Hazza, secretary-general of the Organization of Arab Red Crescent and Red Cross.

Nepalese Ambassador Hamid Ansari, Indian Deputy Chief of Mission Rajeev Shahare, Attariq Communications Business Development Manager Adnan Jaber and a number of diplomats from Argentina, Kenya, Sweden, India, Korea and Thailand also attended the event.

Matheson presented Al-Zuman an official “Silver Proof Coin,” which was issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to commemorate Hillary’s achievements. He also presented him a book, titled “Sir Edmund Hillary — An Extraordinary Life” by Alexa Johnston with handwritten inscriptions.

Speaking during the ceremony, Al-Zuman narrated his journey from the desert to the mountain summit, and what it has meant to him as an Arab and a Muslim to climb to the top of the world.

“Al-Zuman’s feat was applauded in my country,” said the diplomat, adding that Mt. Everest, at 29,035ft., is the world’s highest and mightiest peak. He said for centuries Mt. Everest has had an enchanting, mesmerizing and obsessive attraction for climbers and explorers, claiming and entombing many unfortunate souls in its embrace.

“It was not until May 29, 1953, that the mountain finally allowed humans to stand on its summit,” said the ambassador, proudly recalling that a New Zealander and a Nepalese, Sherpa Tensing Norgay, were the first human beings privileged to make a successful ascent of Mt. Everest.

The diplomat said he was glad to learn that Hillary is one of the heroes of Al-Zuman, who closely followed the route Hillary pursued from the Nepalese side 55 years earlier. “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves,” he said, quoting Hillary

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