Footsteps into the past

Mar 01, 2018
50 fearless women are set to walk 125km to Abu Dhabi from Al Ain

The Women’s Heritage Walk (WHW), a 125km women-only desert trek, is set to launch its fourth edition on International Women’s Day this year on 8 March. The hike stretches from Al Ain's Al Bada Resort & Spa to a private falcon camp in Abu Dhabi and aims to retrace the steps of the Emirati women who made this journey twice yearly not so long ago.

Historically, the residents of Abu Dhabi would set out on this arduous trip to Al Ain in search of the cooler climate and facilitate trade. During the return trip to Abu Dhabi the women would journey with children and the elderly while the men of their villages would return earlier to join their teams and begin work on pearl diving ships. The WHW revives this traditional expedition by taking 50 Emirati and expatriate women through the dunes from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi and has done so every year since 2015.

Each day, the participants will rise before the sun and begin walking to complete a 25km stretch by sunset. For four nights, they will enjoy traditional meals; learn about the history and culture of the UAE; and camp under the stars in a secured authentic Bedouin camp.

This year’s walk will be centred on Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s life to honour the UAE’s Year of Zayed initiative. To better understand the founder of the nation, the ladies will participate in an activity that highlights a part of his life and history each night.

“We acknowledge and thank our ancestors for all we have achieved as a nation, because as the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan once said, ‘He who does not know his past, cannot make the best of his present,’” stated Asma Al Mutawa, a partner and organiser of WHW.

“Honouring the past was one of his values, and in the Year of Zayed, the Women’s Heritage Walk shall highlight those values in an effort to preserve and celebrate our identity, traditions, and history,” she continued.

A 2017 Emirati participant, Sara Al Ali, recounted how the walk helped her understand what kind of lives her ancestors led: “This life-changing experience with The Women’s Heritage Walk reconnected me spiritually with the powerful women who walked on the same path before me,” she said. She also appreciated how the walk not only highlighted Emirati culture but also brought together women of so many different nationalities to break down barriers through cultural dialogue and become one tribe of “Sand Sisters.”

The event relies on the generous support of businesses within the community to ensure this experience is sustainable year to year. This year’s primary sponsors include The Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Academy, The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, The Middle East Group Enterprise, Adventure HQ, Fit Fuse by COÉGA, and Bedashing Beauty Lounge.

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