A different kind of off-road race

There is an off-road rally that has happened every year for almost 30 years in the moroccan desert: The Rallye Aicha Des Gazelles. It is a 15 day, women-only event, of which 9 days are actual off-road competition, with a twist. This race is not about speed, and GPS navigation is strictly forbidden. The event is also officially committed to protecting the environment. Here’s a bit about this strange and wonderful rally:

There is no set route. The women, called “Gazelles”, travel through the desert in their 4x4s, Crossovers, Quads, trucks or even motorbikes whichever way they choose. They only have good old-fashioned navigational tools to help them figure out how to reach each checkpoint covering as little distance as possible: Whoever drives the shortest distance, wins. For every new day (each day is up to 13 days long) they are given a new “Road Book”, which contains the geographic coordinates, headings and distances of that day’s checkpoints and finish line. The Gazelles then have to use a compass, a navigational plotter and maps (remember those?) to plan their route.  For optimal safety, the organizers have been using a satellite security system that lets the organizers track the teams 24/7 since 2001.

The great thing about this rally is that any woman can participate as long as she’s over 18, has a valid license, and a teammate. Oh, and you do need to actually know your basic car or bike mechanics and how to change a tire. The organizers also point out that it is important to be physically and mentally healthy and to take some measures for preparation: They provide a weekend long mandatory navigation training course where the Gazelles learn the practice and theory of old-fashioned land navigation. This costs 440 Euros (roughly 500 USD) for 2 people, including a meal. They also recommend that participants take off-road driving training so that the first day of the rally won’t also be your first ever day of driving off-road.

You don’t have to actually own whatever vehicle you want to use for the rally. Gazelles can borrow a vehicle and – like in other rallies – use it in exchange for advertising space, or they can rent a vehicle. However renting a 4×4 with the necessary insurance for the rally will cost an estimated 7,000 Euros (about 7850 USD)! On top of possible rental fees, the registration fees are quite high, which puts a bit of a damper on the claim that ‘any’ woman can participate: Any woman who has a female friend who can afford to split 14,920 Euros (about 16,720 USD) in registration fees (and remember, you also need a vehicle). Covered by that fee are fuel, meals, mechanical assistance, the aforementioned satellite tracking, medical assistance, liability insurance and carbon offsetting for the vehicle’s carbon emissions during the rally. But you’ll have get yourself and your vehicle to the event, buy mandatory equipment such as helmets and camping equipment (if you don’t already have that). And if you’re a novice to off-road driving, you’ll have to pay another 700 Euro (roughly 785 USD) for the training course. This rally could be a wonderful adventure, if you and a friend have about 25,000 Euros (28,000 USD) to spare – and if not, maybe this is something to save up for!