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After the Rallye, the ceremonial finish on the beach


It’s the end of an adventure that lasted 9 days and stretched over 1,300 kilometres in the Moroccan desert. Whatever their outcome, all of the Gazelles have reached their goal: finishing this 29th edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc. They are Gazelles now, and some have a hard time letting it sink in. This morning, they had their moment of glory in a colourful parade along the Essaouira beach starting at 9 :00. The event organizers, dressed in an Afriquia polo shirts, accompany them one last time, cheering them on.

While waiting, Jeannette James of Team 200 (Jeanette JAMES / Murielle TARRAZI - Bumper Off Road) is shining up her vehicle. She then gives her friends’ windshields a wipe, greeting them one by one. Team 27 (Déborah DRAI-LE CAM / Dorothée DRAI - Alcad Clim) takes a dromedary ride to pass the time. The winners in each class assume their positions at the head of the parade: Team 510 (Stéphanie GUERRY / Carine POISSON - ZOE) in E-Gazelles VINCI Immobilier Class, Team 601 (Charlène LESTIENNE / Barbara BARBIER - ASSURANCES LESTIENNE) in E-Gazelles VINCI Immobilier buggy prototype Class, Team 29 (Elisabeth KRAFT / Sonia BAUDOIN-GUERARD - POLARIS FRANCE) in Quad/SSV, Team 200 (Jeanette JAMES / Murielle TARRAZI - Bumper Off Road) in 4×4 and finally, Team 312 (Frédérique ROBYR / Malika SCHMALZ - Consortium Entreprise Générale Patrick Schmalz et Dhome SA) in Crossover Class.

“I can’t wait to start again next year!” smiles Catherine of Team 20 (Catherine KERAMIDAS / Alexandra CHAPUIS - EIFFAGE - CBA). The Gazelles have asked friends and family to drive so they can perch proudly on the tops of their vehicles, flying their national flags. Our heroines of the day smile from ear to ear as they wave at the admiring crowd. “It’s the end of a great experience, we’re closing the loop.” For four kilometres, they savour this official finish on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Headlights blazing, they launch across the sand one last time. “We’re so happy!” cries Team 141 (Bénédicte MERCER / Hélène SEGUIN - Squire Patton Boggs), wearing purple wigs that match the vehicle. Behind the safety barrier, curious onlookers and loved ones vie to get close to the teams.

« This is my fifth Rallye and the finish in Essaouira is always just as emotional » says Team 165 (Delphine BRIERE / Sylvie DAVID-BOULIN - Conseil National des Femmes Françaises ( CNFF)). The queens of digging get out their shovels, as does Team 100 (SANDRA BENTOLILA / JULIE LE DU - Dental 3D). Belgian Team 106 (Sophie FIS / Susan OSMOTHERLY - Dingo Australia) opts for champagne, which they are sipping on top of their third companion: “We finished, and we said we’d do it if we made it to the end!” Dominique Serra, founder and director of the event, welcomes and congratulated them under the arch amidst honking of horns. Happy and proud with their achievement, the Gazelles then head for the marquee tent for the prize-giving ceremony.




Dominique Serra has dedicated this 29th edition to Nasrin Sotoudeh – prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate – who has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for “inciting corruption and prostitution” by defending women who took off their headscarves in public.

I encourage everyone to sign the petition for her release.