Does your idea of a relaxing vacation have less to do with sunbathing on a beach and more to do with sitting on a surf board waiting for that next wave or stopping to appreciate the view as you make your way up a mountain? If so, then a trip to Morocco should be on your to-do list!
With its diverse terrain and climate Morocco offers an incredible variety of outdoor activities for those seeking a little adventure. From surfing and white water rafting to snow trekking and mountain biking, Morocco is THE destination for all you thrill seekers.
As well as its wide array of outdoor sports for many years Morocco hosted part of the route for The Paris Dakar Rally, an annual off-road race organized by Amaury Sport Organization. This endurance off-road race features serious off-roading vehicles and is not for the faint of heart. Although, the race is open to both professional and amateur racers, amateur racers actually making up 80 percent of the participants. Spectators and media line the route all the way from Paris to Dakar to cheer on those brave enough to face the elements.
The History of The Paris Dakar Rally
The race originated in 1978, a year after racer Thierry Sabine found himself lost in the Libyan Desert on his motorcycle. After being rescued he decided he wanted to share his experience with the rest of the racing world and set out to establish The Paris Dakar Rally. Due to his enthusiasm and passion for racing Sabine’s dream soon became a reality and a route for The Paris Dakar Rally was established. In the words of its founder The Paris Dakar Rally is “A challenge for those who go, a dream for those who stay behind”.
The Paris Dakar Rally route
While the exact route of The Rally has changed over the years due to political and other factors, The Paris Dakar originally began in Paris at the Champs-Elyse, went down through the South of France, crossed over into Spain, and made its way into Northern Africa. In Africa the racers would pass from Morocco to Mauritania, then Mali to Senegal, and finally into Dakar to complete the route.
Morocco to Mauritania
With Morocco’s diverse terrain this leg of the journey introduced the racers to all of the different conditions they would be facing for the remainder of the race. From sand dunes and camel grass to mud and rock, the extreme conditions demanded special endurance from the competitors.
The Fate of the race
In 2008, fears of a terrorist attack resulted in the cancelling of The Paris Dakar Rally. Various African newspapers called this cancelation a “death sentence” for the race and many held doubts over its future. Chile and Argentina in South America offered to host the race as well as the Czech Republic and Hungary in Central Europe. Ultimately, the Amaury Sport Organization established the Dakar Series, with one even held in 2008 in Central Europe and another in early 2009 in South America, however, this year the race will not run it’s traditional route through Morocco. The Dakar Series continues this 2009 with the creation of the Silk Way Rally that will be held from the 5th of September to the 13th in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.