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Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc – A Stylish Talk with Race Founder Dominique Serra

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A Fashionable Q&A

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In NewsWhistle’s weekly question-and-answer series, Clara Morgan speaks with some of her favorite influencers and finds out more about their lives and careers. This week, Clara speaks with Dominique Serra, founder of women-only rally Rallye Aicha des Gazelles du Maroc.

In 1990, Serra imagined the first 4X4 off-road female rally and Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles in Morocco was born, now in its 27th year. The rally offers an unforgettable ten days in the heart of the Moroccan Sahara. Off road, off map, and compass in hand, independently, and competing from all nationalities, the women take off on an adventure of a lifetime. Serra has continued to expand the event, to build and evolve with the times around its core values: courage, surpassing oneself, loyalty, mutual aid, and solidarity.

Said Serra: “My idea is to confront women with their deepest rooted values and conceptions; they do not always know what they are capable of and that they can do this without losing their femininity!”

In 1990, Maïenga (Serra’s company which organizes the event) consisted of two employees – today the company consists of 20 employees, with offices in the US, Canada, Switzerland and Morocco, and offers, in addition to the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles in Morocco, two other rallies: Bab el Raid Cap Femina Aventure and the new Lol and Run, a pedestrian race.

In 2013, Serra was decorated by Chantal Jouanno, Senator of Paris, and received the insignia of Chevalier in the Order of the Legion of Honor and is distinguished by His Majesty King Mohammed VI himself, as an Officer Wissam Al Alaoui.

Serra describes herself as a woman of character with a heart of a feminist and a soul of a champion. This dedication has, however, not prevented her from leading a family life; between her work commitments, she dedicates her time to raising her three children.

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Dominique Serra

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1. When and how did you first realize that you wanted to work in the industry and business you are in?

When I was ten, in front of a beautiful red Porsche, which I dreamed about all night that night. The machine fascinated me and from that moment, I knew I wanted to learn everything about the car industry.

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2. Any celebrity clients or memorable stories related to your business that you want to share?

I was very affected by the World Trade Center attack; as a result of it I had no more sponsors and I thought I would be have to stop my Rallye project. At that time, we had an event planned, which we had already committed a budget to and which we were struggling with financially. During this event I met a lovely lady who offered me a yellow jacket (which I actually never ended up wearing). The day after the event, the phone rang and it was the lady with the jacket, who turned out to be French businesswoman Mouna Ayoub. She told me that she and her sister wanted to participate in the Rallye and donated a whopping €150,000 for their participation and sponsorship – and that’s how Mouna saved the Rallye.

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3. What is a typical day like for you? And what do you like to do on a day off?

I don’t have typical day! My ideal day off is to wake up early and have breakfast under the sun on a terrace, then go swimming in the sea, followed by lunch on the harbor with friends. I also like to take a long walk and I love drinking tea and eating scones! At the end of the day I enjoy going to a movie (if it’s a good one).

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4. What is the next big thing in your industry? What are people doing differently today, compared to 10-15 years ago?

The biggest change will be the launching of an electrical vehicle category in the Rallye.

We are also looking to expand, and create rallies in more countries for women around the world of all cultures and ages. Today, women are increasingly looking for adventure and freedom.

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5. What are your three favorite restaurants in the city where you currently live?

I travel a lot, and I love going to Imperia, Italy and eating at my friend Massimo Fiorillo’s restaurant Lanterna Blu. In Nice, France, I like to dine at La Fourchina d’Aqui and in Paris, named after the famous chef, restaurant Alain Ducasse. When it comes to desserts, Yazid Ichemrahen – Patisserie & Glace in Paris has the best pastry in the world. In short, I like restaurants with a warm and inviting atmosphere where the products are fresh.

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6. What are your three favorite bars in the city where you currently live?

Sherry Butt in the Marais area in Paris, Gossip Bar in Nice, and Le Blue Whales in Court Saleya, Nice. What all of them have in common is great music and a trendy atmosphere guaranteed!

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7. What are your three favorite locations to visit in the city where you currently live?

Musée Matisse and the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, and the Montparnasse neighborhood in Paris.

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8. Which three events on your annual calendar will you will absolutely not miss?

The Marrakech International Film Festival, the Roland-Garros French Open, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race.

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9. What was your best career moment? Your worst?

The most beautiful moment is every rally departure for the past 27 years and when his Majesty King Mohamed VI decorated me “Officer of His Majesty”. The worst moment is losing an organizer and teammate because of an accident.

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10. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (And you cannot say it is a secret!)

I started to work when I was 10 years old to afford food.

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11. How would you describe your personal style? 

Iron Lady – an iron hand in a velvet glove. Personality-wise I am slightly impatient but very loyal and generous.

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12. Who is your style icon? Where do you find your style inspiration?

Gwyneth Paltrow as a style icon. Armani or Dior as inspiration.

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13. Who is your favorite Fashion Designer, Artist, or Architect – and why?

I love the lamps by Celine Wright Luminaires and I like Antoni Gaudí for architecture.

Picasso is my favorite overall artist and Salvador Dali is my favorite when it comes to colors and provocation.

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14. Name your favorite… and tell us why:

 a. Outfit. Armani because of the designer’s fluidity in the garment.

 b. Perfume/Fragrance.  Serge Lutens’ A La Nuit.

 c. Movie.  The Bridges of Madison County, I cry each time I watch it.

 d. TV show. Le Petit Journal by French journalist and TV host Yann Barthès.

e. Book. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran because it is both beautiful and sad.

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15. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What is it you love about it and what is your favorite dish?

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris because it is refined and elegant with a romantic atmosphere. My favorite dish is Cappon Magro, which is an elaborate Genoese salad of seafood and vegetables.

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16. Name your favorite vacation spot and hotel? What makes these places so special?

The Thudufushi Island in the Maldives where my entire family recently gathered for a holiday. It is in complete harmony with the sea and marine life… I forgot the world, work, and I kissed the sky.

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17. Which three items can you not live without?

My tweezers, my glasses, and my tablet.

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18. What song, meditation or mantra can you listen to on repeat? And why?

Anything by Jean Ferrat or Francis Cabrel. They both have wonderful songs with strong words.

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19. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like to meet? And why?

I would like to meet every woman or man who stood up against injustice and suffering because I want to believe that in this crazy world and numerous wars, humankind is still good.

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20. Is there anything else you would like to share, discuss or promote?

Yes, the association Coeur de Gazelles, which works for children and women. In our world, injustice to children should not exist, but it does, and this organization helps to provide opportunities and better futures for Moroccan children and women living in poverty. For more information and to support this important cause, please visit: www.rallyeaichadesgazelles.com/en/heart-of-gazelles

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All images courtesy of Maienga