Abu Dhabi: Sixty women from different nationalities were welcomed back by their families on Tuesday after completing a five-day 170km Women’s Heritage Walk across the desert from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain.

Now in its fifth year, the Women’s Heritage Walk, which is supported by groups including the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, looks to replicate the historical journey Emiratis used to make when going from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain for trade and cooler weather.

As part of their journey, the women would start their day just before sunrise, walking an average of 10 hours until near sunset when they would set up camp and sleep under the stars.

To celebrate the completion of the walk, a closing ceremony was held at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi as each woman was awarded a certificate by Shaikh Nahayan Bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance, who was there to congratulate the women.

“For the fifth consecutive year, courageous and adventurous women representing the diverse population of the UAE have renewed a tradition that has shaped Emirati culture,” said the minister.

“Your planning, prudence, physicality, prowess and persistence are all admirable,” he added.

Shaikh Nahayan also praised the diversity of the group, which he said made the Heritage Walk a unique and special event.

“You came from different nationalities, cultures, religions and ethnicities. You are a microcosm of the UAE’s amazing diverse population.

“Our community has been strengthened by your walk across the desert, you all undoubtedly walked with one another and bridged many cultural gaps. Your tired muscles and sand-filled boots differed not one bit from those of your companions, as you all discovered your communal humanity,” he added.

Deeba Tamim, a British resident who took part in the walk said it was her first adventure into the UAE’s desert after living in the country for 25 years.

“I joined the Women’s Heritage Walk to experience the UAE in a different way,” she said. “I’ve lived here for 25 years and have never done a desert trip.

“We were walking on average for about 10 hours day and experienced every type of weather along the way.

“I do a lot of fitness training so I didn’t get any aches or blisters, and in fact that was one of things I wanted to challenge myself on — to see if I was going to be able to endure the whole walk,” she added.

Noura Zaatari, a Lebanese resident who took part in the walk said she enjoyed being outdoors and reconnecting with nature.

“It was a very beautiful experience. This was the first time for me, leaving my family and everything behind.

“I enjoyed every moment of the walk and the chance to bond with so many different ladies,” she added.

Imryhine Ca Aya, from the Philippines, said she was proud to have completed the long walk.

“It was amazing, we were out walking every day for almost 10 hours covering a distance of up to 30 kilometres. The big challenge for me were the big sand dunes, but once we reached the top of the dunes, the view of the desert was beautiful.

“The weather was also a challenge, there were rain storms, wind storms, cold weather, hot weather and humidity — all of this made the experience more fun,” she added.

Aya spoke fondly of what she called the sisterhood that formed between the women during the walk.

“We were strangers at the start, but as we were in this journey together, we all helped and motivated one another. For five days, it was like one big family.”