“Cherish the past to embrace the future.” Women’s Heritage Walk
There’s (another) awesome event happening in Abu Dhabi from 1st – 7th March and this one is all about embracing the UAE’s heritage while empowering women. Forty-four courageous souls are participating in a six-day 140 kilometre trek through the desert from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi, walking in the footsteps of the women who made this arduous journey twice a year in times gone by.
The group of women, half of which are Emirati walking in the footsteps of their ancestors and the other half western expats who call this country home, are embarking on this journey embracing the heritage and history of the nation along the way. One of the aims of this historical walk is to appreciate and understand the country’s culture and traditions by going back to basics and living in close proximity in the desert without all the trappings of today’s modern society, to relive and honour the past.
A well as the celebration of history, the walk has also united a diverse group of ladies and promotes the empowerment of women through exercise and endurance, who will be testing their strength and resilience negotiating the undulating dunes on this journey. It will also give them an understanding of the past and how the region has been influenced by its landscape and its people, how it’s grown and changed immensely over recent years. Having just spent just one night in the Abu Dhabi desert on a camping trip and trekking recently in Oman, I have nothing but respect for this amazing group of ladies and the challenge they are undertaking.
In olden times, Emirati women made the onerous and exhausting trek from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi twice a year as they and their families lifestyles were dictated to by the environment, migrating from harsher desert climes to more accommodating urban areas, traversing the undulating sparse terrain and hot, humid climate. The women travelled with their children in tow, some who needed carrying and even in time of illness they still walked, setting up camp and cooking at the end of the day after walking for hours to take care of their family needs. Harsh desert conditions influenced daily behaviours and these in turn have developed into the traditions that we see today at events like the Qasr Al Hosn festival.
This inaugural walk, under the patronage of Sheikha Shaikha Bint Mohammed Bin Khalid Al Nahyan, is spearheaded by self-professed ‘global nomad’ Jody Ballard, LCPC of Strategic Wellness Systems. Ballard was inspired to create this walk after watching Adrian Hayes cross the Al Maqta Bridge in 2011 with two companions on camels, having completed a 3,000 kilometre trek following in the footsteps of British explorer and travel author Sir Wilfred Thesiger (also known as Mubarak bin London who wrote Arabian Sands). Impressed by Haynes journey, Ballard enlisted Tempo magazine managing editor, Sana Bagersh and the Women’s Heritage Walk idea to honour Emirati women and their historical journeys across the desert in this region was born. Ballard said, “The Women’s Walk makes me realize that nothing is impossible, and I hope others will also embrace the vision.”
Here’s is an overview of the walk’s schedule:
Day 1 (Sunday 1st March) ~ Heritage Walkers will gather at Al Bada Resort in Al Ain
Day 2-5 ~ Following morning prayers, Heritage Walkers begin on the ancestral route walking 25 Km to a secured Bedouin camp. Evening meals will be followed by cultural programs.
Day 6 ~ The penultimate day comprises of a 24 Km in the desert to the Falcon Camp. Evening camp at Masdar City.
Day 7 (Saturday 7th March) ~ Registered walkers will team up with the Heritage Walkers at the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal in Abu Dhabi to complete the final 16 km with a celebration of respect and endurance at the finish line.
The group is hoping that more women will join the walk as it approaches the Al Maqta bridge area in Abu Dhabi encouraging women and their daughters, mothers or even grandmothers to finish the last 16K
m of the walk, all uniting to celebrate and honour the strong determined women of the UAE’s past. I think this is a fantastic event to celebrate the history of the UAE which is also cross cultural, uniting Emirati and expat women, a real case of Girl Power in action! You can find out more information by clicking on the links below. Good Luck ladies 😉
Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved