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ABU DHABI: A group of 60 women from 20 nationalities including 11 Emiratis will complete a gruelling five-day trek across the desert when they reach the UAE capital today where a gala function awaits them later in the evening.

The 125km annual Women’s Heritage Walk (WHW) retraces the footsteps of Bedouin women who used to take this challenging route twice a year not so long ago.

The women walkers — collectively known as the Sand Sisters — set off from Abu Dhabi on foot on February 1, criss-crossing the harsh desert terrain of Al Ain over five days — all in an attempt to honour an Emirati tradition and get a deeper understanding of the UAE’s Bedouin customs.

“The Women’s Heritage Walk replicates Emirati migration patterns, and through it we highlight the rich history of our ancestors. As we walk in the desert, we dive into our beautiful culture alongside women of many nationalities and backgrounds who participate in this adventure to connect not only with the past, but also to connect deeply with themselves and move forward into the future. They do so through the beauty of the desert and its gifts of wisdom, purity, and serenity which we lack in today’s technology occupied and time-pressed society,” said Asma Al Mutawa, partner and organiser of the event which begin in since 2015.

Each day, the participants rose before dawn and walked up to 10 hours to reach their next campsite before sunset where they enjoyed traditional meals and learnt about the history and culture of the country.

The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi which supported the event, provided thematic cultural activities such as handicraft demonstrations, lessons on gahwa (local coffee) preparation, and a discussion on the significance of the abaya.

The journey provided an open platform for the participants to discuss their culture, values, and traditions and learn from each other without prejudice.

“The desert teaches us to persevere with compassion, to humbly appreciate the power of nature, and how to draw on inner strength to keep moving forward when weary,” said Jody Ballard, founder and organiser of the Women’s Heritage Walk.