Abu Dhabi: Fifty women from 20 nationalities aged between 24 and 64 years on Thursday embarked on a six-day 120km trek through sand dunes from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi.
In its third edition, the Women’s Heritage Walk retraces the footsteps of Emirati women who undertook such expeditions twice a year on foot and on camel through the arid desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
The walk, supported by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, will end in Abu Dhabi on February 14.
Women’s Heritage Walk participants will be sleeping in traditional Bedouin tents that are located every 25km throughout the journey.
Participants underwent intensive endurance, strength and fitness training, including yoga, boot camps, circuit training, desert walks, beach walks for three months, training six days per week.
They set off from Al Ain Oasis and will walk for the next five days from 6am to noon, get some rest and nourishment for two hours and then continue on their journey till around 6pm. They’re carrying along a GPS system for navigation in the desert and a saluki dog and his companion will also be be accompanying them.
They will be sleeping in traditional Bedouin tents that are located every 25km throughout the journey.
Throughout the journey the women will be entertained by a number of activities including Al Ayala band, Al Tagrouda vocal singing, female our player, handicrafts workers and artisans and story telling by Major Ali Al Suwaidi whose mother took part in desert walks in the past.
Budour Al Tamimi, UAE Ambassador for Women’s Heritage Walk, said: “I am taking part in this life-changing walk for the third year in a row. The women’s heritage walk has become more and more dear to me as I see the positive changes that have empowered me start to empower the other women who join us.
“I am also trying to encourage Emirati women to embark on this challenge to also step out of their comfort luxury zone, embrace fitness in their lives, and try to be adventurous sometimes. It’s is also an amazing way to help keep me on my wellness path and staying fit, as I look to taking fitness to the next level innovatively in the future. I can’t wait to live the desert’s serenity again!
Jody J. Ballard, 60-year-old American therapist, writer and founder of Women’s Heritage Walk, said: “I started this walk when I wanted to learn more about the Emirati culture and decided to write a book on an ailing grandfather who wants to leave a legacy based on values and virtues for his children and grandchildren. I was very curious about learning more about the culture and how life was like in the harshness of the desert, that’s when I decided experience it for myself.’
Hiroko Tsuno, a 43-year-old freelance translator and tour guide from Japan, flew in from Tokyo last week to take part in the walk.
“I’am very curious to learn more about life circumstances in the past, I really want to get that feeling and experience it for myself. It’s incredible how the country had evolved tremendously over the past decades, but still maintains its authentic oriental feel,” she said.
Tsuno brought along her sleeping bag, phone and books to keep her entertained. She will miss accessing the internet and said she will survive with no shower, but is concerned about the heat.
Sawsan Al Ghulifqi, 30, an Emirati real estate agent from Abu Dhabi, is going on the desert walk for the first time.
“I love adventures. At first my parents totally rejected the idea of me travelling abroad on hiking trips, but after sometime they realised I was doing something extraordinary and they supported me.
“As an Emirati girl I want to prove that we are strong, ambitious and smart and no different than our great ancestors who struggled from hardships,” she said.
Ghulifqi downloaded some e-books and classical music on her phone to meet her entertained, and brought along some protein snacks to keep her energetic. She is scared from scorpions that might be in the desert.
Aase Omoluabi, 35, a manager from Nigeria, came from Abu Dhabi and is very excited to be on board as she is watching out for her fitness and activity levels.
“I come from a diabetic family and I’m very cautious about my health, I’m very keen on adopting a healthy and active lifestyle, that’s why I’m here today, and I’m hoping i have the energy and make it to the very end, that’s what’s on my mind at the moment,” she added.
Syeda Bushra Ali, a 34-year-old Al Ain resident from Pakistan, said her husband encouraged her to take part in the walk.
The mother of 14-year-old Kawal and 9-year-old Eman is a freelance Zumba instructor and fitness specialist on obesity and diabetes.
“My husband knew about this walk and persuaded me to take part, my only concern was being away from my children for five days, I already miss my family and my 10-months-old cat Mano,” she said.