It’s a Bedouin proverb that ‘only in complete silence, will you hear the desert’. The adage seemed to be the basis for this year’s Camel Trek, an extraordinary adventure in the desert to revive the social and cultural heritage of the UAE, which is organised annually by Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC).
This year’s trek started from Rub’ Al Khali or the ‘Empty Quarter’, the largest continuous sand desert in the world, in Abu Dhabi, on January 17, and ended at Global Village in Dubai on Saturday.
The fourth edition of this trek was the longest journey across the UAE desert that lasted for 11 days with a culturally diverse convoy that also included the ambassador of Argentina to the UAE, Fernando De Martini, who joined the caravan during the last four days.
The ambassador did not have any experience riding camels, but traversed across the unusual landscape of the desert on his own camel for the rest of the journey and arrived at Global Village fash- ionably clad in the traditional Emirati garb.
“It was very tough, but I am very glad that I made the decision of joining the trek,” said the ambassador. “There were some challeng- es when I was training to ride my camel and getting used to the desert, but I am happy I joined and learned so much about the Emirati culture.”
Along with the ambassador, the convoy also included some seasoned trekkers, who experienced more challenges this year because of the length of it, the weather, and the terrain.
Charlotte Sarrazin and Anne- Laure Laine, who were returning for the third time, and Muhamad Al Fansouri, from Malaysia, who was joining the trek for the second time.
“I am returning for the third time and this year was some- thing completely different. It was very hard and exhausting, but as always it was an exhilarating experience,” said Sarrazin.
Even Laine found the trek harder than the last two years and Al Fansouri ended up falling off his camel twice, but both of them were in absolute awe of the beauty of the landscape. The caravan covered a daily distance of nearly 63km and ended up covering a total 500km on camelback.
His Excellency Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmook, CEO of HHC, said: “This is the longest version of our annual Camel Trek. There were many challenges, but we were able to follow the map of the trek that was prepared after embarking on pre-exploratory excursions to chart our route.
“We must face difficulties to revive a culture that benefits the participants who wanted to experience life in the past. For the first time, we travelled more than 63 kilometers on the camel’s back in one day. This distance is a record because today it is not easy to achieve.”
The Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center serves as a plat- form for all cultural and heritage initiatives, tournaments and activities as conceptualised by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
If you’ve ever wondered if life at the top of one’s sport gets easier as time goes by, squash world No. 1 Nour El Sherbini can assure you that it does not.
The 22-year-old Egyptian has extended her reign at the summit of the world rankings to 22 months, and counting. She has won her last three consecutive World Series tournaments – most recently claiming the Tournament of Champions in New York last week – and has reached the final in her last five events.
She surely does make it look easy. But El Sherbini would be the first to admit that the pressure grows exponentially the longer she’s at the helm, and explains the mental struggles she faced last year before getting back on track.
“It’s never getting easier, it’s challenging more and it’s getting harder actually. I keep playing tournament after tournament, thinking it’s going to get easier but it never does,” El Sherbini told Sport360 at the opening ceremony of the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, where she was invited as an honorary guest.
“At first when I became world No. 1 I was like ‘okay, I’m there now, what’s next?’ I just went on to play another tournament. But last season, I lost all the tournaments I contest – I just won the World Championship.
“So in the summer I just trained more and I’ve been doing so well until now. We just started the second half of the season and in the first month, I couldn’t wish for a better start. I think it’s really going well until now, I just hope to keep going like this. I still have three more tournaments to go and I hope I can keep going.”
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) January 26, 2018
El Sherbini saw her World Championship title defence end at the hands of fellow Egyptian Raneem El Welily in Manchester last December. She avenged that defeat in her next tournament though, taking down El Welily in the final of the Saudi Women’s Masters – the first professional women’s tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia.
El Sherbini was thankful she managed to rebound immediately from her World Championship disappointment, and was thrilled to be part of such a historic moment for Saudi Arabia. The tournament of course was not without its challenges.
“It was a historic event and I was really proud to be there, just participating in that event,” said El Sherbini.
“All of us, we didn’t know what to expect, it was the first tournament (in Saudi Arabia) and we knew we were going to face a lot of challenges there.
“Only women were allowed to come and watch us, so it was just us, the athletes, all of us in the same place. We weren’t able to take any pictures inside the court. First they said some of the players had to play wearing leggings, and others played with skirts. But skirts were fine since there were only women at the venue. It wasn’t televised… it was really challenging.”
Saudi Arabia has been trying to remove some of the barriers discouraging women from taking up sport, and the country recently allowed females to attend a football match, opening stadium doors to them for the first time.
التاريخ ٤ مصريين في نصف نهائي بطولة السعودية #مصر
— Nour el Sherbini (@noursherbini) January 10, 2018
The Saudi Women’s Masters was another promising initiative and El Sherbini says it was a step in the right direction.
“It was really a very good start and all the players were really happy, going everywhere with their abayas. They really enjoyed it and us Egyptians were really enjoying it, it was very safe. We didn’t have any problems there and the tournament was very successful,” said the Alexandrian.
“For me it was really important because it was just after the World Championship and I had just lost it. So it was really important to get back to training and go back to compete, it was really hard for me mentally. But I’m really glad that this is one of the reasons that helped me keep going, winning Saudi, then winning the Tournament of Champions (in New York). If I hadn’t gone back to training right away, it would have taken me longer (to bounce back). So I’m glad we had this tournament just after it.”
El Sherbini is the first Egyptian woman to win a World Championship (she won two), and is also the first to claim a British Open title. Her history-making feats have seen her become an icon for Arab women in sport and she recently won the Mohammed bin Rashid Creative Sports Award in the ‘Outstanding Arab Athlete’ category.
In Sharjah, she attended the opening ceremony of the Arab Women Sports Tournament, where 68 different teams from across the Arab world are competing across nine sporting disciplines.
El Sherbini is embracing her position as a role model for Arab women and encourages them to venture into the world of sport.
“I think there’s no better time than now because women’s sport (in the Arab world) is really on top now and it’s the time to get up and try something new and know that it’s your right to play sports, try to do whatever you want, just go for it and just try to enjoy it,” she says.
“I always feel like it’s a responsibility on me to attend these kind of events. People are always watching, and waiting for you, so you have the responsibility towards them, to be there, try to help as much as you can.”
The latest squash rankings, released on February 1, are led by three Egyptian women with El Sherbini at the top followed by El Welily and new world No. 3 Nour El Tayeb. It is yet another sign of Egypt’s dominance in the sport and El Sherbini is honoured to be part of this historic era of squash in her country.
“It’s really special. It’s our time now and we’re really enjoying it, enjoying being at the top,” she added.
“I feel we still have more time at the top and there are more good juniors coming up. It’s really special to have the top three, alongside with Nouran (Gohar) also in the top 10. Hopefully we can have more joining us. Also on the men’s side there are seven Egyptians in the top 10. I’m just really proud to be one of them.”
The fourth – and largest – edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) was inaugurated on Saturday at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah.
Taking place under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Sharjah Supreme Committee for Family Affairs and Chairperson of the Sharjah Women Sports Foundation. Themed ‘The World Is Your Court – Together Victorious, the tournament is hosting 68 clubs from 16 countries and 1,000 athletes and administrative personnel taking part – a 70-per-cent increase on the last edition.
Organised by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation, the 11-day event runs from February 2-12, where the athletes will compete in nine sports, namely; basketball, volleyball, table tennis, fencing, archery, shooting, athletics, show-jumping and for the very first time Karate.
Representatives of the athletes, referees and judges took the athletic oath expressing their commitment to honest and fair competition as well as a true sense of integrity.
In his opening address, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad bin Sultan Al Qasimi welcomed all Arab competitors and guests to Sharjah, sharing the message of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, saying: “Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi’s thoughts share an immense pride towards what Sharjah has accomplished in its dedicated care and support towards the women in sports.”
He continued: “Her Highness extends her sincere gratitude to all the organisers, guests and athletes whose honor and fair play elevates the names of their associations and clubs. Her hope rests with all the best of results to all participants, knowing that together you can lead by example in success.”
Among the activities starting Sunday, the Jeddah United Club will face Kuwait’s Girl Club, while Bahraini Mawaheb Club will play against Somali Mogadishu Club, and Sharjah Sports Club for Women is set to face Jordanian Fuheis Club.
The competitions will take place in 10 venues around Sharjah.