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Why These Women Are Trekking Across Arabia’s “Empty Quarter” A.K.A The World’s Harshest Desert

On Wednesday, a caravan of 15 camel riders set off (for the first time) from “the Empty Quarter” in Abu Dhabi, also known as the world’s largest, and harshest desert in the Southern Arabian Peninsula. The reason? To connect with and embrace the rich, traditional Emirati heritage. Indeed, camel riding has deep roots in Emirati tradition. Historically, camels served as a primary mode of transportation as well as a dependable source of food and milk in the United Arab Emirates. In Bedouin tribes, the desert-dwelling creatures were given to the bride’s family as dowry, in addition to a payment of zakat (the annual portion of a Muslim’s personal fortune that is given as charity to people in need.)

Prior to embarking on the desert trails of the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, the riders (dubbed the ‘Desert Knights’), who hail from all points of the globe including Algeria, Ukraine, Oman, France, Malaysia, Syria, and Pakistan, received training in proper camel riding by experienced organizers from Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC), a center dedicated to the conservation of Emirati culture and tradition, to prepare them for the 200-km trek. The experience certainly requires great endurance, composure, and patience.

“The ‘Camel Trek’ continues to explore the desert trails just like how people did in the past,” says Hind Bin Demaithan Al Qemzi, Director of Events at HHC. “This year, the ‘Camel Trek’ is taken to a whole new level compared to previous years. The past editions were planned alongside cities and populated villages and thus close to the areas of supplies necessary for the trip, whether it be electricity, water or food supply. This year’s trip, is from ‘Rub Al Khali’ or the so-called ‘Empty Quarter’, which is known in history for its harshness and its distinct desert environment that is devoid of any life,” she adds. To ensure the safety of the participating men and women, necessary safety measures have been taken, including having a trained paramedic accompany the riders to provide medical services and first aid if needed.

Fatima Khirani, one of the participants from Algeria, was attracted to the Camel Trek because of her love for the desert and camels. “Our ancestors lived a nomadic life. This is an opportunity for our present generation to live this life. I know how to ride camels, but this is the first time I have been on a journey that extends so many days,” she said.

“My colleague told me about the trek and that was about the time I was going to spend my annual holiday in Italy,” adds Dubai-based Mila Kladova, who canceled her trip to the Southern European country in order to participate. “It seems strange to my friends, but when I tell them what I do here and how I live every day, they see how lucky I am to have this adventure.”

Good luck to the ‘Desert Knights’.

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