Egypt’s First Female Race Driver Prepares for Abu Dhabi Rally


The Middle East is not known for breaking from traditional gender roles but a 36-year-old single mother of one is doing just that. Yara Shalaby is proud to be Egypt’s only female rally driver and she is taking the desert-racing world by storm. Shalaby took up the sport in 2013 and quickly began racking up impressive finishes including the famous Pharaons Rally that has since been shut down by the Egyptian government. Nevertheless, Yara would not let that stop her and turned her sights on the United Arab Emirates with the goal of participating in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge this March. This race is particularly important to her as its part of a World Cup for cross-country rallies and winning here would catapult her career to new heights.

Becoming a world champion racer is not all that is on Shalaby’s mind. Her dream is to form the Middle East’s first all-female rally team, which also aligns with FIA’s goal of getting more women involved in the sport. During her first attempt at forming the team she found that other women copilots and mechanics weren’t able to dedicate the time necessary to gel as a team. Two of the copilots-in-training also got the team lost in the desert.

Until her dream is reached, Shalaby is 100% focused on qualifying for the Abu Dhabi race, working diligently to gather her team and funding. Simply getting her 1997 Land Cruiser to the U.A.E. has proved challenging. First, her request to drive through Saudi Arabia was turned down; this was followed by other issues with getting her rally car to comply with FIA rules. In the end, it was easier to buy another vehicle once she got to Abu Dabi instead. Although a quarter of the cost has been covered by new sponsorships, she still needs to raise over $50,000 to compete in the race with her eight-person team.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a legendary race, prestigious in the world of international cross-country rallies, currently celebrating its 27th year. The five-day event begins March 24 and features races for motorcycles, quads, and rally cars.

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