With the blessing of founder Dominique Serra, executive producers Jay Alaimo and Phil Conserva were given the honor of experiencing the Rallye des Gazelles in Morocco's awe-inspiring Saharan desert and among the brave women who carved their individual routes to the finish line.
Since 1990, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc has challenged teams of women to traverse Morocco's Saharan desert in the shortest distance possible with only a compass, paper map, and their vehicle of choice. It's the first and longest-running annual off-roading rally for women.
This year's race featured 165 teams of two, one driver and one navigator, and lasted nine days. There's certainly an element of thrill-seeking to the entire endeavor — relying mostly on instinct and maneuvering a freewheeling car across a sandy expanse sure sounds thrilling to us — but the rally isn't just about chasing an adrenaline rush.
As one competitor states in the video above, "you're cut off, focused on one thing in a community of women that have chosen to develop their character in the same way, and that's empowering in itself." By nature, an off-road race through the desert can be unpredictable and exhausting — it's no wonder some of the participants view it as a kind of proving ground for their wits, determination, and strength.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience for the women who compete also supports the desert's surrounding communities. The rally's non-profit organization Cœur de Gazelles has provided over 8,000 local Moroccans with access to medical care and education.
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a unique opportunity for women to test their limits while helping others. As competitor Jazmin Grimaldi puts it, there's nothing quite like it. "They can tell you a little bit about what's going to happen at the rally, but I don't think you can really comprehend it until you live it," she says.