50 women to trek on paths of Emirati women
The women-only trek that will be held from February 9 to 15
Five days, 50 women and 125km of desert sand! The ensemble makes up the Women's Heritage walk, a non-profit initiative by a sisterhood of trekkers in the UAE.
The women-only trek that will be held from February 9 to 15, will retrace the steps of Emirati women who used to undertake such arduous journeys in the past through the arid desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi in search of cooler climes.
The group consisting of women from 20 different nationalities including Emiratis has been on a three-month long preparation for the physical challenge of walking through the desert for up to 10 hours a day from 6am to 6pm with breaks in between.
"It is challenging. But women always do well when thrown into difficult situations. This walk is all about celebrating our strength and achievements," said American Jody Ballard, 60, who launched the first heritage walk in 2015.
Ballard, an author and wellness coach stumbled upon the practice, while researching about Emirati cultural for her yet to be published book "Whispers in the Sand."
"Traditionally, UAE women undertook this walk in search of better weather while their husbands were away on long fishing and pearl diving trips. I wanted to recreate that bonding and camaraderie among women of today," said Ballard.
What began as a closed group of trekkers, today the walkathon has become a much sought-after annual event for trekking enthusiasts.
"This year we have had more than 100 people on the waiting list. But we had to limit the numbers to 50," said Ballard.
The desert trek is also a cultural experience for many participants as they experience the desert life as it was in the past.
"It is a proud moment to follow the steps of my ancestors and understand their hardships. I want to experience the trek all the more because it is a celebration and reaffirmation of what women can achieve," said an Emirati participant.
While the trekkers will carry a small backpack, trucks filled with supplies will reach them at designated camps throughout the five-day trek.
The walk that will begin at Al Bada Resort in Al Ain will end at Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi, where participants will meet their families for a final 2K walk and ending ceremony.
No room for prejudice in desert
The women-only trekking group comprises 20 different nationalities, including Emiratis.
American Jody Ballard, 60, who launched the first heritage walk in 2015, said most women have a reason why they want to take on this challenge.
Ballard said: "They transcend all the artificial boundaries created by race, religion, culture or nationality during the walk. There is no place for prejudice in the desert.
"Some have just recovered from a chronic illness; some have separated from their spouse while others want to rediscover themselves. We all bond as women who share similar stories of individual challenges and successes."
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