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Rally Jameel: Saudi Arabia’s First Women’s Only Navigational Race

Women Drivers From Around the Globe Took On the 3-Day Desert Race

Rally Jameel, photo by John Rettie
Photo: John Rettie

Saudi Arabian women weren’t permitted to drive cars until September 2017, and by the summer of 2018, many Saudi women were behind the wheel on public thoroughfares. And this year, the nation hosted its first women’s only off-road navigation rally race, Rally Jameel, a 3-day event that ran from March 16-19, 2022.

Rally Jameel 2022

Photo: John Rettie

The 2022 Rally Jameel followed the format of similar off-road races in which two-person teams must navigate their AWD or unmodified 4×4 across off-road terrain — in this case, 1,600 miles of remote desert terrain spanning the three-day course. The challenge requires proficiency in desert driving, map reading, route planning, and directional navigation.

Photo: John Rettie

The 2022 route began in the city of Hail, passed by Al-Qassim, and terminated in the capital of Al-Riyadh. Teams covered 500-800-mile stages each day, and details about each stage remained confidential until the night leading up to it. The rally objective is acuity, not speed, and teams accrued points by finding and traveling through hidden waypoints along the course. The team with the most waypoints wins.

This year’s rally drew competitors from 15 nations. Swedes Annie Seel and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky took first in a Toyota RAV4, with the binational team of Atefa Saleh (Palestine) and Eleanor Coker (USA) claiming second in their Toyota Prado, followed by Maha Al Hamly (Saudia Arabia) and Pochola Hernandez (Spain) in third, also piloting a Prado.

For a recap of the highlights, check out the video below. And to learn more about Saudi Arabia’s first-ever all-female desert rally, head to RallyJameel.com and follow @rallyjameel on Instagram.

About Jilli Cluff

Jilli is a contributor and editor brought up on four-wheelers and country roads. Her true introduction to the automotive world came in 2006 with the purchase of her first car — a near-mint 1972 VW Squareback. In 2016, she obtained motorcycle licensure and bought her first bike — a humble Honda Rebel. She's been enamored with bikes ever since. Jilli is currently based out of Austin, Texas, where she takes up residence with her one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.