The final trek across the desert of Morocco ends at an oasis. After spending the past nine days sleeping in tents, eating French army rations (while away from the bivouac) and removing sand from their food, engines, and pores on a regular basis, the 220 women of the 2011 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles finally arrive at the coastal town of Essaouira. And most are sad the journey is over.
The official finish of the 21st edition of this one-of-a-kind event includes mounted horsemen in traditional Moroccan costume. Carrying colorful flags and forming an equestrian honor guard, they welcome the courageous ladies as they make the ceremonial finish to their desert adventure.
Sitting and standing atop their vehicles, the beaming Gazelles wave the flags of their home countries, don celebratory hats, and pose for the photos family and friends are eagerly awaiting back home.
By nightfall, the dust-covered gals clean up nicely for a fancy celebration of dining and dancing in a formal tent set up under the stars.
For some, the occasion marks a joyous reunion. The husband of American Tricia Reina has flown to the northern African country to greet her at the rally's end. For others, including members of the four teams that finished unranked due to mechanical failures, it is a bittersweet finale.
No matter the final standings, feelings of pride at having taken the risk and stepping outside their respective comfort zones appear universal.
For American Emily Miller and Frenchwoman Armelle Medard, the 2011 Gazelle Rally has been an
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