Saudi women drivers set to compete for first time in 2022 Dakar Rally
Two Saudi women drivers will make history next month when they compete in one of the world's most famous rally car races.
Dania Akeel and Mashael Al-Obeidan will be the first two Saudi women to participate in the Dakar Rally after the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) granted the licenses needed for Saudi women to take part in the competition.
The 12-day race scheduled to begin on 1 January in the Saudi city of Jeddah. The drivers will traverse a route through Saudi Arabia's deserts and mountains, covering up to 600 kilometres per day.
Saudi Arabia only granted women the right to drive for the first time in 2018.
Akeel expressed her gratitude to the SAMF and spoke of her recent recovery from a fractured spine following a crash on a rally track in Bahrain last year.
“Those months after the crash were painful… In motorsport, you accept the risks and ultimately you have to make a choice,” Akeel said.
Al-Obeidan described taking part in the rally in Saudi Arabia as "a dream coming true.”
“I soon realised that I was unlocking doors and breaking down barriers with my achievements. We are paving the way for females to understand the journey we are taking and to join us,” she said.
The Dakar rally, which has taken place annually since 1978, traditionally began in Paris, France and ended in Dakar, Senegal. Security concerns in Mauritania meant the race last followed that route in 2007. Since 2020, the entire race has been held in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia hosted the Formula One championship, amid calls from human rights organisations for a boycott of the race due to the Kingdom’s abuses and rights violations.