Three months of intense training precedes a120 kilometers in the desert over five days. The ‘Sand Sisters,’ retrace a historical Bedouin migration route from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.
Historically, the residents of Abu Dhabi set out on this arduous trip to Al Ain in search of a cooler climate and to facilitate trade. Women, men, and children would cross the desert on foot and on camels to complete this seasonal journey. The Heritage Walk has revived this traditional expedition by taking Emirati and expatriate women through the dunes every year since 2015.
Each day, Walkers rise before the sun and begin walking to complete a 25-kilometer stretch by sunset. For four nights, they enjoy traditional meals, experience the history and culture of the UAE, and camp under the stars in a secured authentic Bedouin camp. Thematic cultural activities such as handicraft demonstrations, lessons on Gahwa preparation, and a discussion on the use and significance of the burqa are a few of the experiential programs enjoyed.
Tolerance, perseverance, self-awareness, and cultural respect are themes discussed in the Wellness Component. These become more highly relevant as the event brings women from multiple nationalities together. The journey provides an open forum for the women to discuss culture, values, and traditions and to learn from each other without judgment. Through it, they discover there is more that unites than separates them.
Each woman takes a chance by overcoming fear and disrupting their lives for a moment hoping to find something special inside and outside of themselves. Through connections to others unlike themselves, they learn and grow.
“A heart afraid never learns to dance, and never takes a chance.”
Fear isolates us and diminishes our opportunity to live our best lives by finding our best selves. We must be challenged to do this and the Women’s Heritage will challenge you. Complacency and walking through our lives on autopilot doesn’t. When we think of adventures, we think of exploring something outside of ourselves a large part of this challenge and any real struggle happens inside ourselves. This walk challenges you to go outside your comfort zone in all areas.
This program is guided by integrity and honoring heritage. The Women’s Heritage Walk develops personal and collective strength. Proximity and shared hardship build not only tolerance but respect. By finishing, they teach our daughters, families, and community that difficult does not mean impossible. The desert teaches us to persevere with compassion, to humbly appreciate the power of nature, and how to draw on inner strength to keep moving forward when weary. This gift of struggling fortifies a heightened and profound belief in oneself and gratitude for the support given.
“The Women’s Heritage Walk replicates the Bedouin migration patterns, and through it, we highlight the rich history of our ancestors. As we walk in the desert, we dive into our beautiful culture alongside women of many nationalities and backgrounds who participate in this adventure to connect not only with the past but also to connect deeply with themselves and move forward into the future. They do so through the beauty of the desert and its gift of serenity, which we lack in today’s time-pressed society,” said Asma Al Mutawa, a partner in the Women’s Heritage Walk.
26-year-old UAE national Waheeda Al Hadhrami participated in 2017 and had this to say about the event, “Walking through our beautiful deserts and reconnecting with our past was life-changing, although it was physically and mentally challenging. The experience gave me the chance to meet many women from different backgrounds and walks of life, and I enjoyed the cultural exchange that took place. I loved every step of the journey!”