Retracing steps of Emirati Women

The Women’s Heritage Walk gears up for the third edition of its 125K female only trek in the desert
Image by Marie Jegaden

Abu Dhabi, UAE: The Women’s Heritage Walk (WHW) is in the final stages of its preparation for its annual walk, which is to take place from February 9 – 14, 2017. This women-only walk is a 125K hike stretching from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi that aims to retrace the steps of the Emirati women who made this journey twice yearly not so long ago.

Historically, UAE women set out on this arduous trip in search of cooler climate while the men of their villages were on months long pearl diving trips. Today, the event will take over 50 Emirati and expatriate women out to the desert to build confidence, physical endurance, and sisterhood. The foundation of the Walk rests on four pillars: culture & heritage, health & wellness, community building, and women’s empowerment. Through three months of physical training and cultural events, the Walk’s organizers aim to increase not only the women’s stamina but also their appreciation and understanding of the UAE’s history and culture.

Previous participants have not only enjoyed the personal benefits of this challenge, but the impact of the Walk also transcends to improve relationships with family, friends and in the workplace. “The Women’s Heritage Walk really develops an ‘I can’ attitude in its participants,” remarked WHW founder Jody Ballard. “Many of the ladies never believed they could handle the physically and mentally strenuous five day journey, but after they cross the finish line they are overwhelmed with the immensity of the achievement and realize that anything they set their mind to is within their grasp.”

2016 participant Estelle Gay-Folly recounted how the Walk helped her emotionally as well as physically. “I had planned this walk carefully, both physically and mentally. I was looking forward to spending a lot of time with myself, reflecting on my past and planning for my future. From the first footprint I left in the sand, I got out of my head and got into my heart. I thought less, I felt more. My heart became the captain of this beautiful adventure and I let my inner feelings and sensations be my guide. I lived in the present.”

Image by Marie Jegaden

The cultural dialogue between the walkers also becomes an integral part of the event. By bringing together an equal number of UAE nationals and expatriates, the Walk creates the perfect forum for cultural learning and exchange. By the end of the trip, the women regard each other as “Sand Sisters”.

The event relies on the generous support of businesses within the community to ensure this life changing experience continues to be offered year on year. This year’s main sponsors include Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company (ADNIC), Bedashing Beauty Lounge, and Adventure HQ. Sharaf Group CEO Farhan Al Bastaki claims this cultural harmony is one of the reasons why his group chose to sponsor the Women’s Heritage Walk through Adventure HQ, one of its retail businesses. “We are excited to be part of an event that involves being adventurous and creates a sense of unity among a group of women of different nationalities. We want to increase awareness of the UAE’s heritage in a proactive manner and inspire others to follow such an initiative. Having this event take place in the desert is ideal, as it is in line with the heritage of the UAE. This walk will take people back in time, before the rise of skyscrapers, and will give them the chance to experience how life in the UAE was like for our ancestors.

After the five days in the desert, the participants will rejoin their families at 6 PM on Valentine’s Day (Feburay 14, 2017) at Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi for a final 2 KM walk and ending ceremony. The Women’s Heritage Walk encourages groups from within the community to attend this free event to help celebrate the women’s incredible achievement.


More information about the Women’s Heritage Walk can be found on and on its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Media inquiries may be sent to For more information about the ending ceremony, please contact



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