Emirati women needed for 140km heritage walk from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // A group of women are appealing for more Emiratis to join them on their mission to relive history, as they walk across the dunes from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi. The Emirati and expatriate women will set across the desert for a six-day, 140-kilometre Women’s Heritage Walk starting on March 7. Twenty-two […]

ABU DHABI // A group of women are appealing for more Emiratis to join them on their mission to relive history, as they walk across the dunes from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi.

The Emirati and expatriate women will set across the desert for a six-day, 140-kilometre Women’s Heritage Walk starting on March 7.

Twenty-two expats and eight Emiratis participated in the first walk last year, but this time, organiser Jody Ballard, 59, wants to have equal numbers of Emiratis and expats on board.

“Finding expat women was easy, but Emirati women are harder to convince,” said Ms Ballard, an American women’s wellness coach.

“To get equal numbers, we require eight more Emirati ladies, which will bring our numbers up to 44 in all. This walk has added significance for Emiratis, because they are walking in the footsteps of their grandmothers.”

One Emirati woman who has signed up is Noor Al Tamimi, 36, managing director of the beauty company Dashing International Group. She first heard about the walk from her younger sister Bodour, who completed the trek last year.

“When Bodour first told me about the walk, I thought it was a crazy idea,” said Noor. “Going without civilisation, without bathrooms for six days – I thought, ‘No way!’

“But I realise that unless we push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we will never progress our personalities. I’m a mother of five with three sisters, and I have more than 200 lady staff in my company. I want to be a good role model to all of them.”

Another Emirati walker is Salama Al Shamsi, 31. As the head of the project to build the Zayed National Museum on Saadiyat Island, she has spent plenty of time dwelling on the hardships that Emiratis endured on such journeys between desert communities, before the advent of cars.

“It was a harsh life for them,” Ms Al Shamsi said. “Only 50 years ago, people would spend the summer in Al Ain because it was cooler, and the winters in Abu Dhabi.

“They used to walk for a long time in caravans of camels, with just a little food. I remember hearing stories of how they’d count the number of drops of water they allowed themselves to drink each day.”

Ms Al Shamsi’s grandfather was a pearl diver, and used to tell his granddaughter about his exploits at sea. She recalled that he wore traditional socks to trek across the desert, in the days before sandals. “I want to follow in the footsteps of my grandparents and my great-grandparents, to know what it was like for them,” she said.

Unlike her ancestors, Ms Al Shamsi and her fellow walkers will have the luxury of comfortable trainers, modern walking poles and an ambulance trailing them should an emergency arise. But in other ways, their trip will mirror those undertaken by past generations.

Participants will learn about Bedouin star gazing, coffee making and traditional music. Maj Ali Saqar Al Suweidi, president of Emirates Marine Environmental Group, will teach the walkers songs his grandfather taught him as a child.

“We Emiratis used to sing songs like Wa’ale Wa’ale, which means ‘we help each other’,” he said. “The words mean, ‘May God help us, make it easy for us’.”

His grandfather used to walk from Dubai to Al Ain, and Maj Al Suweidi did the trek on foot himself during his army training.

Ms Ballard said the walk will bring the women together as a team.

“They move from a shy, respectful watching each other to creating a lifelong connection. It is a beautiful process to observe.”

Information is available at www.womensheritagewalk.com

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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