Heritage Park in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Gulf News

Although Heritage Park in Corniche was only a stone’s throw away from my home, we never really took a walk in that park. It was on a whim that we started walking there in January.

Much to our delight, it was like a whiff of tradition with its faux rock caves, intricate pergola sitting areas, huge flowering trees, quaint wooden bridge around a pond, and an old-fashioned well with bougainvillea bushes for the hedges. It is nestled at the end of the Corniche, opposite the port of Mina with beautiful views of the traditional dhow port.

We also have the unassertive Zahiya post office park opposite our building. The morning walks these days are quite pleasure-filled in this small park with its frangipani, hibiscus, and bougainvillea trees blooming. The endless skies in the expanse with clouds shattered by the lazy sun is a thrilling spectacle to behold. Last week, it rained a lot in the UAE and it was a pleasure to walk in the slight drizzle. Poems come naturally on these early morning ambles with a misty ambience.

Let’s take a walk

In the drizzling rain

When it’s slightly more

Let’s run in to the canopy

And continue our stories

That pour from the heart

It’s a mind study

Sometimes a stroll in the park is far more than it seems. It is a great lesson in behavioural science. An old couple comes to the park around seven in the morning and spreads their yoga mats on the kiosks. Afterwards, they pick all the hibiscus that have bloomed on the trees and head out of the park in a calm saunter.

There are the dog owners who walk their dogs and indulge every child who loves animals, patiently. Some couples talk animatedly oblivious to their surroundings, which can only come from years of friendship and understanding.

There is the old man walking backward, which I learned later, is the best way to achieve balance. There are fitness enthusiasts who remind you of all the stretches, you have forgotten, when you see them do it. The jogging lady, who I do not know, smiles at me, every morning, as she crosses me.

Somehow we are all parallel passengers in the same world of walking. There is a sense of familiarity and routine when you meet the same set of walkers or joggers at the same time in the park. When someone is away for a couple of days, you start to wonder what happened to him or her. Strange are the ways of the mind! We connect to strangers without the need for names or acquaintances.

A new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggests that simple walking for as little as six months may give older people’s brains the boost they need to stay mentally sharp.

People who walk, gazing at huge trees silhouetted against an orange-blue-hued sky, have reduced stress, better attention, and memory. Flora and fauna in a park is not just a shared green space, but a zero-cost therapy.

For a green place like Abu Dhabi that boasts of some of the finest parks in the country, some serious soul searching can be accomplished on these daily walks.

Endless skies in the expanse

Winds that overtakes the sense

Birds that chirp and shrill

Leaves that swish in a thrill

Butterflies dancing on the flowers

Winter wonders are all yours

Walk, walk on the empty paths

There is a solace in the stillness.

Feby Imthias is a writer based in Abu Dhabi and author of the book, Children of the Sun, Sand and Seas. Twitter: @Feby_Imthias