Trekking through the sand dunes of Morocco, you might be lucky enough to spot a Dorcas Gazelle.
Categorised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List as vulnerable, these diminutive, docile creatures are growing increasingly rare.
However, gazelles of a different sort are becoming far more common in Morocco.
This rare species only appears in Morocco between mid and late March, however, a small gathering in New York is arranged for 14th November.
Of course, these aren’t actually gazelles as in the traditional sense — they are courageous, adventurous women with a taste for adventure.
Every year a small army of women converge on the sand dunes of southern Morocco to take part in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc.
These women, self-styled as Gazelles, compete in an epic rally through the Moroccan Sahara desert.
What is the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc?
Created in 1990 by Dominique Serrr, the rally was originally an image campaign to dispel prejudices around women. However, since then, the rally has become one of the most important motor sports events in France.
The rules are simple. Firstly, only women over the age of 18 can take part. These competitors can come from any country around the world; so far women from 30 different countries have competed.
These are the Gazelles. They can compete in basically any vehicle they wish. In the past, competitors have used 4x4s, crossovers, quad bikes, trucks and motorbikes.
The actual competition is a rally like no other. Competitors must travel the 2,500km route across the desert and dunes with only a compass and a 1:100,000 scale map. Satellite navigation systems, mobile phones, and even binoculars are expressly forbidden.
The only technology of the event comes in form of GPS tracking of each vehicle for safety.
The competitors must plot their own route between the checkpoints. The winner is the person or team who has traveled the shortest distance between the start and finish line. Gazelles who miss checkpoints or request technical assistance receive penalties.
Social and environmental commitment:
As the whole competition is billed as an adventure for its own sake, there is no prize money. Instead, any proceeds raised by the event go to charity.
Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc supports teams of doctors who provide medical care to remote rural regions of Morocco.
They also donate money to support child education in Morocco. Most recently, they set up an orphanage funded entirely by the competition.
In addition, the rally is the only motor sports event to have an ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Certification.
They undertake many environmental initiatives including producing an environmental report each year, forcing competitors and guests to sign an environmental good behaviour charter, and funding environmental initiatives.
Plus, since speed is not taken into account and competitors are challenged to travel the shortest distance, eco-driving really is the aim of the game.
The launch party:
The 28th annual Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc will be preceded by a launch event on 14th November 2017 at Bobby Van’s Steak House in New York City.
Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while listening to race organisers explain the rally and what will be expected of guests. In addition, the event will be updating guests about the charitable initiatives of the rally.
The race itself will take place 16 March 2018 until 31 March 2018.