Every year—for the past 20 years—women from all around the world gather together in the Moroccan desert to compete in an off-road event called the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. Traditional off-roading comprises of various classes of modified vehicles racing each other to the finish line with the hopes of winning a prize, title or reward. However, the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is substantially different from these typical races, as there are absolutely no prizes to be won, speed is unnecessary, and only women are permitted to participate. Whether you are already a professional with a career in the auto industry, or you plan to pursue automotive courses, this is an annual event that you will definitely want to learn more about.
How It Works
The participants are separated into teams of two (one driver and one navigator). Each team is allotted only paper maps and compasses to guide them on their journey—modern tech devices like GPS, cellular phones and any other mobile devices are not permitted during the event. There are no particular rules on the type of vehicle that can be driven during the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, as many have been seen, including four-wheel-drive vehicles and trucks, crossovers, motorcycles and even ATVs—however, it’s important that the vehicle is capable of functioning properly in off-road conditions. During the event, the participating teams must search for and find each and every checkpoint. While the teams set out to find each checkpoint, they must also be cautious of various sand traps which can be found throughout the desert.
The Rallye Aicha des Gazelles has come a long way since it was founded. During its founding year in 1990, only 9 teams participated in the rallye Aicha des Gazelles, however, the event has since grown and has begun to attract many more women. This year marks the rally’s 25th anniversary and 104 teams of women representing countries from around the globe have registered to take part.
Check out these highlights from the 2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles:
A Journey to Self Discovery
The founder of The Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, Dominique Serra, first started this rally as a campaign to dismiss prejudices against women. “I think women are important,” Serra stated when asked why she started the women-only rally. “I thought if you put them [women] in a context that isn’t their habitual context, I’m sure they’ll figure it out and get something out of it. And that’s what happens,” said Serra.
Serra is a firm believer in the fact that this race somewhat changes women, or forces them to see things about themselves that they haven’t seen before—in fact, she describes the rally as a “trigger,” explaining that “completing the rally each day demands a little more force, a little more courage, a little more know-how, and they advance. They totally change their points of reference.”
The Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is clearly meant to serve as an inspiration to women everywhere—whether these women are aspiring automotive technicians with an interest in off-roading, or perhaps even fashion industry professionals who have never driven an ATV in their lives and are in need of an adventure.
This year, Canada has entered seven teams into the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, all comprised of women from Quebec. Among these teams are Stéphanie Samson and Pascale Paquette, two nurses who are participating for the first time, who will be driving a Nissan Navara D22. Hélène Floch and Shaday Lavalée are entering for their second year, also driving a Nissan Navara. Quebec has a strong connection with the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, and in past races, many or all of the racers from Canada have been Francophone.
How else do you think the auto industry can promote women racers, mechanics and engineers?