Pioneering all-women Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc – faithful to its founding values: courage, the desire to push one’s limits, loyalty, solidarity and social commitment – hosted a kickoff party at Rotisserie Georgette in New York City on November 3, 2016 to celebrate the 27th annual event, which takes place between March 17 and April 1, 2017 in the unspoiled beauty of the Moroccan desert.
The New York event was honored to host: guest of honor Mrs. Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Abderrafie Zouiten (Director General of the Moroccan National Office of Tourism), Mardochée Devico (Président Directeur General des Conserves de Meknés), Dominique Serra (Founder of the Rallye Aïcha Des Gazelles Du Maroc). Additional notable attendees included: Christine Cachot, Liza Bensimon, Camille Biedermann Roizen, Denise DeLuca, Nezha Larhrissi, Luiza Petre MD, Marie-Noelle Pierce, Sandra Ripert, Marie-Monique Steckel, Rita Zniber, Leyna Zniber, Kiera Chaplin, Alisa Roever, Margo Manhattan, Jean Shafiroff, Lauren Day Roberts, Paola and Arnie Rosenshein and Sara Johnson-Kaplan.
Attendees enjoyed Cocktails & Hors D’oeuvres while learning more about the world’s first all-women off-road rallye. An hour and a half into the event, Dominique Serra took to the stage to thank guests for attending the event and for their interest in learning more about the 27th annual rallye. After a short video presentation, she welcomed rallye partners Lisa Bensimon (Conserves de Meknès) and Rita Zniber (Diana Holding foundation) onstage, who spoke about the women “Gazelles” and the challenge yet freedom and commitment it means for the women who enter this once-in-a-lifetime competition. After a second video presentation by Serra, Nezha Larhissi (Minister Office of Hakima ElHaïtéMinister of Environment) noted the importance in the environmental aspect of the rallye and how it puts sustainability at the forefront of its operations, both in terms of the natural environment and in terms of the local population. A third and final video explained the work of the rallye’s charitable organization Cœur de Gazelles, which was followed by a much anticipated speech by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde. Lagarde opened by sharing how she saw herself as the godmother of the “Gazelles” and her longstanding involvement with the rallye. She highlighted the rallye’s core value of empowering women and how the rallye stands for respect (for both the environment, the people and the country) as well as generosity (because it gives back more than it receives). Lagarde ended her remarks by noting her deepest admiration of Serra and the efforts she has put in to making the rallye what it is for 27 years, and for being a pioneer who noted as early as 1990 how the central idea of the rallye must be sustainability.
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a human adventure that is one of a kind. It is the only international off-road Rallye race for women only. Since 1990, it has been bringing together women between the ages of 18 and 71, from more than 30 different countries, who embark on an adventure of a lifetime from the French city of Nice on March 18th, 2017 and onward to the start of the Rallye in the Moroccan desert. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is developing a new vision of automobile competition: no speed and no GPS, just old-fashioned navigation, completely off-road. The Rallye respects its scenic host country and its people through the actions of the Rallye’s non-profit, Cœur de Gazelles, as well as the environment: the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is the only motor Rallye in the world with ISO 14001 certification.
All Rallye participants, known as “Gazelles”, leave this adventure marked forever by the experience: they push their limits, have to face themselves, far from their sometimes difficult daily lives as women; there is also a strong element of sharing and mutual aid with their teammate as well as with the other “Gazelles”. But while the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a return to the roots of adventure, it is also, with its satellite system for tracking the teams, on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to safety. This duality is the strength of this unusual competition. With its unique concept, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc is changing the way people view automobile use.