For the fourth time, a dedicated group of women joined forces on UAE National Day to drive through all seven emirates. The annual National Day Unity Drive is not just an excuse for the members of the Women's Auto Racing Club to go out for a drive, but the event is also used to raise awareness for good causes.
This year, the drive raised awareness for diabetes prevention and breast cancer screening. Prizes were awarded to women who got their answers correct in quizzes about diabetes and breast cancer awareness. "We did put up prizes for answers based on information related to our causes to encourage intense concentration on what was said and discussed," says Shaima al Sayed, one of the organisers of the drive.
In the UAE, diabetes prevalence is the second highest in the world with an estimated 25 per cent of Emiratis suffering from the condition. Forty-four per cent of women in the UAE who have breast cancer will die of the disease, largely because of late detection, compared with 16.1 per cent in the United States.
Al Sayed, one of the organisers of the event, hopes that the enthusiasm generated on the day will carry on into the new year with the club.
"The club will be relaunched in 2011 with more strategic plans that are under the same goals and missions of the Automobile and Touring Cars Club," says al Sayed.
A scheme under the banner "101" will be introduced next year to teach women new skills.
"We will be initiating 'Technical 101' to sign up girls that need to know more about servicing their cars, oils and changing tyres," she says. "We will also be introducing a road safety campaign that involves actual incidents that happen on the road."
Al Sayed hopes that, by using examples of real-life crashes that have happened in the UAE, misconceptions will be overcome and club members will be more aware about the importance of such things as wearing seat belts and not using mobile phones while driving.
"Once we get the necessary approvals, we would also like to start a 'Duning 101' course for girls who want to hit the dunes and require basic training," adds Al Sayed.
The club will be promoting its workshops and events for the new year, such as all-woman kart racing events, largely via their Facebook pages, Warc Ae and WARC UAE. The club has 50 members but they are hoping for an increase in the new year.
On the day of the drive, the numbers varied from emirate to emirate, with up to 30 cars and more than 50 women involved overall. Only six cars joined the convoy for the 7.30am start in Abu Dhabi but more joined along the route, especially in Dubai and Sharjah where 15 cars and six cars joined respectively.
Al Sayed says this year's drive was the "smoothest one so far. "We were in good time for each emirate, we had minimum interference on the road, the participants were happy."
A highlight was a personal invitation from the Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain to join the parade along King Faisal Street.
The ladies were also able to try the new Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi for the first time: they enjoyed a scenic lunch break in Fujairah, and Al Sayed describes their treatment by the police and public in Sharjah as "amazing; queen-like".
On the Sharjah stop, the Clowns Who Care comedy troupe, a group that entertains sick and special needs children, performed for the children of women who came along for the drive.
Ajman's Corniche was the final stop on the drive where, al Sayed says, there was "an outstanding finale, a grand carnival waiting for us".
"The participating ladies sang the national anthem as a sign of completing the Unity Drive and a cake in the shape of the UAE map and the colours of the flag was cut."