Whether you know or not about rallies, chances are you’ve heard about the Dakar in some way or another. While the event moved to South America a decade ago, there’s one other rally that follows in the tracks of the original Dakar, through the Sahara desert. The Gazelles have been exploring the sand dunes for almost 30 years now in the Aïcha.

The Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc rally was created in 1990 by Dominique Serra, head of the Maïenga agency that organizes and oversees a number of rally raids. It is the only all-women competition to take place entirely off-road. Initially created as a publicity stunt, the event has gained popularity and momentum over the course of the following 30 years and has become a test of determination and will power for hundreds of women from around the world.

Contrarily to other rallies, with the Aïcha, the winner doesn’t take all—the competition wasn’t designed to award money to the winners. Instead, entry fees are used by the Coeur de Gazelles organization to fund a traveling caravan of doctors that provide care to isolated people. The organization also funds the construction of schools and wells, as well as education in sustainability and women rehabilitation. The rally itself is even certified ISO 14001 for its eco-friendliness thanks to reduced emissions, efficient waste management, and the use of all the recycled water bottles in the construction of new homes.

The 2019 event will take place from March 15 to 31, with the actual rally taking place in Morocco between the 20 and 28. There are a total of seven legs, including a prologue and two two-day-long stages. Participants are entered in similar categories to the Dakar, in the Moto/Quad/SSV, Crossover, and Pick Up classes.

The competition doesn’t revolve around speed but rather around navigation skills—no GPS or technology to get the competitors to the end of the stage, all they have is a map and a compass. The routes aren’t mapped out: all the ladies are given are the coordinates of the checkpoints and set loose in the desert. They get to plan their own, most efficient route. The winning team is the one that has found the highest number of checkpoints in the shortest possible distance.

Participants must be women aged 18 years and older with a teammate and a vehicle. Pre-registration for the 2020 event are now open—what will you be doing next March?

Source: Rally Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc

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