(French) Dr. Fatima Araki, clinician psychologist and neuropsychologist, worked as a psychotherapist at the psychiatric University Hospital Center Ar-Razi Rabat-Salé in Morocco, as the Head of the research laboratory and taught clinical psychology from 1987 to 2005. She was trained in the USA on medical care and treatment of drug addicts and delinquents and now works as a psychotherapist in the private sector.

Dr. Fatima Araki is also an active member of several social and cultural associations, including the Moroccan League of Child Protection and the Committee of Rabat Salé-Association Bouregreg.

Araki is the first Moroccan woman to be the president and founder of a motor racing club in 2001 (Union Automobile Club of Morocco) and the first Moroccan woman to organize rallies in Morocco.


AWP: You are the founder and president of De l’Union Automobile Club du Maroc, which organizes the Rallye des Colombes. What inspired you to start holding this road rally for women? What influenced your vision?

FA: The idea to organize this event came to me while listening to a speech of His Majesty Mohamed VI King of Morocco in which he pointed out Moroccan women’s emancipation and the importance of its role in the country’s development and the valorization of its image.

While discussing the idea with a group of girlfriends, passionate, like me, about motor racing or simply infatuated with adventures and discoveries, they were all enthusiastic; the organization of this rally will affirm women and bring a real message of freedom.

AWP: How would you describe the Rallye des Colombes?

FA: Rallye des Colombes, which takes place every year in Morocco at the beginning of May, under the presidency of her Royal Highness the Princess Lalla Meryem, counts as an event whose goal is to serve as a platform of escape and relaxation for women, but also allows for the discovery of the touristic, economic and cultural potential of the targeted territories, which are characterized by a rich and unique geographical, cultural and historical backcountry. This three-day event, open to tourism series cars, takes place on an open tar road under the Moroccan traffic laws.

Participants do not dirty their hands with grease, sleep out in the open or have a hard time. Sportive, medical and mechanical logistics planning ensure the participants’ comfort and the best of receptions. Participants are advised and assisted in a friendly, warm, joyful and always festive atmosphere and enjoy the immense pleasure of being pampered like a princess, without excluding an ounce technical rigor.

This event is in its 10th anniversary and based on the regularity principle. In other words, speed does not count. An average speed is defined before hand by the organization, and this speed has to be respected in order for the team to respect traffic laws. The speed is adapted to the road since they drive in the backcountry on roads that are still perfectly tarred. We check that the different elements of the car respect the traffic laws and that the car is reliable. A lot of candidates have their own vehicles. Some others rent theirs.

The competitors know their departure and arrival but not the way in between. They have a road book that gives them some indications to follow. Along the track and at each stop there is a section of the road where they meet a commissioner who verifies their stopwatch and speed. The team earns points according to their delay or advance. The track is divided into six stages: two each day. The average distance is about 150 km. Each day, the participants will have a minimum of 2 regularity tracks to do. The complete mileage of the route is around 1000 km, including 300 km of regularity tracks.

The definitive route, as well as the time control, is known the evening before the departure during the briefing on the unfolding of the rally, which allows the participants to get a general idea of the rally and its preparation. This rally, whose departure, arrival and awards ceremony are made at the Wilaya of Rabat, crosses a dozen regions each year.

AWP: Who participates? Which countries are represented?

FA: This rally hosts only women participants. Previous editions welcomed Moroccans, as well as Americans, Canadians, French, Belgians, Swiss, Italians, Spanish, Hungarians, Portuguese, and other women from around the world.

AWP: The eighth edition of the Rallye des Colombes, Rally of Doves, was held in the country of Morocco. How has the idea of the Rallye des Colombes changed over the years?

FA: This rally always takes place in Morocco, but its particularity is that every year it travels across a different region to allow the discovery of the backcountry. The change that the rally underwent is that it was at first only open to Moroccans, but now welcomes women from around the world. Even though there is a great demand, the number of participants is limited in order to assure the friendly atmosphere of the rally.

AWP: The Rallye des Colombes is organized for women by women. Who are these women? Tell us about their passions: the excitement of leisure and means of escape, the desire to be ambassadors of Morocco, its culture and traditions. 

FA: Generally they are active and enterprising women having a spirit for challenge and discovery. Among the committed women there are university teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, corporate managers, artists, etc. During the whole track, they can have some time for themselves and get spoiled. The organization takes care of everything. They only have to launch themselves into the competition and make themselves pretty for women-only evenings.

These women are very receptive to the discovery of Morocco offered to them by the rally, with all its grand and bewitching landscapes. The rally allows them to:

• network with female associations in the backcountry;
• discover the beauty of the backcountry and create interest for national tourism;
• increase public awareness of rural driving;
• increase awareness of economical driving to preserve the environment;
• become a part of the practice and development of motor racing;
• contribute to the valorization of women and show that motor racing is not only a men’s world.

AWP: An underlying theme of the Rallye des Colombes is the message of freedom for women. Why is this message significant, especially in Morocco today?

FA: These women generally look for a challenge. On the contrary to what some people believe, the regularity rallies are very sportive, even though there is no pure speed. The co-pilot has her nose right in the road book with eyes glued on the stopwatch. The pilot follows her indications. It is a very technical sport event. This is not a nice ride for women lacking in thrills. It really is a challenge. At the finish, the women are generally very proud because they went all the way. They have surpassed themselves and get the impression to exist differently. Cars are not only reserved to men. Women adore them too. More and more, women look for an opportunity to test their courage and strength. The International Women’s Rally of Morocco – les Colombes (link to previous AWP story Automobile Road Rallies in France), a real sport challenge, gives these women the possibility to fully express their personalities, their disposition and their determination. Driving a vehicle in a rally is complicated, but is nothing compared to the satisfaction and pride that is achieved after carrying it out. 

AWP: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned as president of De l’Union Automobile Club du Maroc?

FA: There is a male chauvinism anchored deeply in Moroccan people. Women have to reverse this tendency by involving themselves in actions that men consider their own exclusive domain. Motor racing is an example of that.

AWP: How has the experience as founder, president and rally participant changed your world?

FA: The discovery and the deepened knowledge of my country through the organization of this rally, as well as the encounter with exceptional women.

The experience has allowed me to access a pleasant diversion from my professional life, since motor racing is my passion.

AWP: Some women are predisposed, each in her own way, toward the passion of driving: through fantasy, family or a cultural context. How did your interest in driving unfold?

FA: Simply having been around mechanical sports since 1973, the year I met my husband who was a motorbike pilot and then a car pilot. During my college studies in France, I also belonged to a certain number of motor clubs, which I helped during the organization of car sport events.

AWP: What do you think today’s women bring to automobile clubs?

FA: Concerning auto driving in an urban environment, Moroccan women have nothing to be ashamed of when compared to men, the only difference being that she often stays dependant on him for her trips outside the city, where she lacks confidence. One of the goals of the Rallye les Colombes is to give her back this confidence.

FA: The National Rally of the Diplomatic Corps takes place each year in March under the High Patronage of her Majesty the King Mohammed VI. It aims at being a platform of discovery, escape and relaxation for the Accredited Diplomatic Body to the Kingdom of Morocco, but also to promote the touristic, economic and cultural potential of the Kingdom of Morocco, particularly for the targeted regions. All along the way and at each stage of the track, the Diplomatic Body discovers, as well, the magic of tradition and delicate flavours of local cooking, presentations on the touristic, economical and cultural potential of each region and the priority actions to implement for tourist development.

Each year, this rally of international scale, prestige and high diplomacy takes place under the theme of friendship among countries. The 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 edition were respectively linked with Japan, USA, France and the Netherlands.

This rally, which is in its ninth year, targets the most beautiful sites and landscapes of the backcountry and crosses a dozen of the provinces. It is based on the regularity principle and is open to tourism vehicles. It is exclusively reserved to accredited diplomats in the Kingdom of Morocco. It takes place in the same way as the International Women Rally of Morocco — les Colombes: 3 days and 6 stages, on an exclusively tarred road in order to offer intense pleasure and a unique adventure in a quality environment, certifying security in the atmosphere of the biggest rallies, but with more comfort and very lively regional animation.

AWP: Who participates in the National Rallies of the Diplomatic Corps?

FA: Ambassadors, consuls, advice ministers, representatives of international organizations, like the different branches of the UNO, European Bank of Investment, African Bank for development, defense attachés etc., all accredited to the Kingdom of Morocco.

AWP: One of the National Rally’s goals is to promote the image of “modern” Morocco. What is this Morocco like? What is “modern” about it?

FA: The status of Morocco evolved considerably during the past dozen years; first from a country in development, it has become today an emerging country. It should not be forgotten that Morocco does not have oil resources; its only richness comes from its political stability, which allows it to enjoy a marked trust from investors and creditors of international funds. This lets Morocco march with giant steps towards economic, industrial progress and modern infrastructures.

Today, Morocco’s action is articulated around 4 priorities:

1. to form individuals, so as to prepare the future of young people;
2. to develop modern infrastructures;
3. to support industrial excellence through innovation;
4. and to promote a sustainable and united economical development.

This is the Morocco that the Diplomatic Body Rally and the Rallye des Colombes wants to put forward without overlooking the “postcard Morocco,” which, through tourism, also has a great role in its economic development.


AWP: Several of our contributors have lived abroad or have worked in France and Francophone countries. Many followers are preparing to study or live abroad in Morocco. What would you say to them?

FA: I would tell them not to hesitate for a second. You will find a welcoming and warm environment and support from Moroccans. And the icing on the cake is that Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries on earth: it contains every geographical, geological and climatic facet you can find on a continent. You will never grow tired of traveling across its magnificent landscapes, whether they’re coastal, mountainous, under the sun or the snow, plains or deserts.

AWP: In your youth, what did you imagine your adult life would hold? What influenced this vision?

FA: In my childhood, I always dreamed of having a job in which I related to others, like medicine, and everything around it, such as medical and social research. Horse riding (which, I still practice), ballet and music allowed me to evolve and grow in an open and receptive world. My adult life always followed my childhood life.

AWP: Name the single book and movie, works of art and music, fashion or cuisine that has inspired you.

FA: Fashion that inspires me is classic chic because it reflects my personality, but I also dress sport chic according to the moments and the sites I have to go to. I like classical music because it soothes me.

Moroccan cuisine is the cookery I like. It is a delicate and valued cuisine, with subtle flavors.

AWP: What is the last book you read ? Would you recommend it ?

FA: Timebends: A Life, by Arthur Miller. It is a book upon which I stumbled by accident in a library. This illustrious writer sums up more than a half-century of American legend and tells his life without omitting anything. From the 1929 crash in America to the Spanish Civil War, from theaters to literature. A captivating book, brillianty telling of a whole life.

AWP: Was being stylish important to you growing up? Is it now?

FA: Of course, being elegant is to be in harmony with one’s femininity. Even today I like to be elegant; it gives me a sense of wellbeing in my life.

AWP: How do you define style or fashion?

FA: According to me, to have your own style is the best fashion.

For more information on the International Women Rally of Morocco — Les Colombes, visit: http://unionautomobileclubdumaroc.com

Acknowledgements: We are grateful to the following people for helping to make this interview possible: Dr. Fatima Araki, founder and president of l’Union Automobile Club du Maroc; Sylvia Kay Kaplan with her husband His Excellence the Ambassador of the USA in Morocco Samuel Kaplan, former Ambassadors to Morocco; Ann-Marie Ford, Community Liaison Officer U.S. Embassy, Rabat, Morocco; Hicham Sbaa, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor at the American Language Center in Marrakech, Morocco, writer and translator for A Woman’s Paris; Bénédicte Mahé, student in cultural management in philanthropy for cultural institutions, writer and translator, and French advisor for A Woman’s Paris; Natalie Ehalt, Lead teacher at Joyce Bilingual Preschool in Minneapolis, MN, and senior editorial manager, writer and advisor to A Woman’s Paris.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® blog, Automobile road rallies in France: Women in the drivers seat (Camille du Gast Crespin, Michèle Mouton and Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, Moroccan desert), by Barbara Redmond who writes about the women who compete in a nine-day, off-road adventure in the sandy dunes of the Moroccan desert. And “Coeur des Gazelles,” the money generated from the race to help finance doctors providing medical care for people in the remote areas of Morocco.

Fiction: The Last Passage, by award-winning Moroccan writer Hachim Sbaa whose fictional writing looks at the life of an elderly woman as she is lives life by herself and tries to figure out what truly matters and how she can fill her time and what is left of her life.

The streets of Marrakech, by Jennifer Haug, world traveler and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in Marrakech who writes about the French influence in Morocco and her teaching experience there.

French Impressions: Catherine Watson on literary travel writing and memoir. Award-winning author, travel writer and photographer, Catherine Watson, whose career has taken her around the world three times, to all seven continents and into 115 countries shares her life, on and off assignment, as a solo traveler. 

Paris photo shoot – in search of the perfect Moroccan slipper, by American writer Lisa Rounds who tells of her adventures in the North African neighborhood of Barbès in Paris searching for the perfect slipper in red, of course, for a Cosmo photo shoot. Her story of “living the dream,” working for a publishing company in Paris.  

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2012 Dr. Fatima Araki. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.