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'Sand Sisters' revive ancient desert trek in UAE

Anjana Sankar /Abu Dhabi
anjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 9, 2018
Sand Sisters revive ancient desert trek in UAE
This year's walk will be centered around Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's life to honour the Year of Zayed initiative.

(Supplied photo)

The Women's Heritage Walk will see 54 women of different nationalities collectively brave the desert for the next five days and cover a total of 120km.


A group of more than 50 women have embarked on a desert trek from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi to embrace the UAE cultural traditions by following the footsteps of generations of Emirati women who walked the route twice a year.

The Women's Heritage Walk, which is in its fourth year, will see 54 women of different nationalities collectively brave the desert for the next five days and cover a total of 120km between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.

This year, the walk commenced from the Al Bada Resort and Spa in Al Ain on March 9 and will end at a private falcon camp in Abu Dhabi on March 13. A closing ceremony will be held in Abu Dhabi. 

"This is a dream come true for me," said Alexa Siersdorfer, 54, a German national from Abu Dhabi. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Siersdorfer said while she was fighting the disease, she had promised herself that she would walk the desert with the group. "No one thought I will survive the illness, especially when I had a relapse in 2015. By taking this walk, I just want to prove that we can do whatever we want to do, and we should not let anyone tell us that we cannot.

"It is a wonderful feeling to bond with women from different nationalities, who all have their own personal stories of struggles and success to share."

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.

Emirati Suad Yousif, a government employee from Abu Dhabi, said the walk is a unique challenge and partnership between women. "Also, it feels very special to be able to welcome people from different nationalities into an event that belongs to Emirati culture and traditions." 

The walk was launched in 2014 by American author and therapist Jody J. Bollard, who was then living in the UAE and researching for her book, Whispers from the Sand. Her aim was to revive the tradition of the two annual trip that the residents of Abu Dhabi used to take to Al Ain in search of the cooler climate and to facilitate trade. During the return trip to Abu Dhabi, the women would stay back longer and journey with children and the elderly.

This year's walk will be centered around Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's life to honour the Year of Zayed initiative.

"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'," said Asma Al Mutawa, partner and organiser of the Women's Heritage Walk. 

This annual initiative is supported by Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi as part of its mission to preserve and promote the unique cultural heritage of the UAE.

anjana@khaleejtimes.com

 

author

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.





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