Dakar Rally to kick off in Asia for first time in history

The route for the Dakar Rally will pass through NEOM, the Red Sea Project and Qiddiya. (SPA)
Updated 09 September 2019

Dakar Rally to kick off in Asia for first time in history

  • The race will begin in Jeddah on Jan. 5

RIYADH: The world is waiting for the Kingdom to host the Dakar Rally 2020, one of the world’s most difficult and most famous desert rallies. Registration is now open for the historic event, which will be held for the first time in Asia after a 30-year domination by Africa and South America.

The race will begin in Jeddah on Jan. 5, from where contestants will travel thousands of kilometers in 10 stages in cars and on motor bikes modified to cope with thisgreat challenge.

Contestants will be passing through cities rich in history and aspiring projects such as NEOM, the Red Sea Project and Qiddiya. They will go along the Red Sea and then head inland to face the challenges of the high sand dunes, passing through the Red Sea Project, the aspiring tourism project which embraces 90 unspoiled islands as well as mountainous and desert areas and will offer a unforgettable experience to visitors.

Competitors  will head toward NEOM, 26,500-square-kilometer futuristic city located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, with a waterfront stretching over 460 kilometers.

The competition will move forward to Riyadh, the Saudi capital embracing big companies and brands. They competitors will rest there for a day before heading to ​​Qiddiya, the heart of futuristic entertainment, with more than 300 entertainment and
cultural facilities.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the chairman of KSA’s General Sports Authority, said: “The agreement to host the Dakar Rally, which has been known as the world’s toughest race for many years, is a way to introduce to the world Saudi’s stunning scenery, vibrant cities and immense desert, whose dunes interlace with the sea. The world will get a chance to learn about the Kingdom’s rich history, get to know its good and hospitable people and witness its qualitative transformation.”

Prince Abdul Aziz added: “The Dakar Rally will channel the true image of Saudi Arabia to the world, at all levels: sports, entertainment, culture, heritage and tourism, in addition to promoting its ability to compete with the world’s most powerful countries in organizing international events, as a message of openness and love to the entire world.” 

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “Participants in the Dakar Rally 2020 will face great mental and physical challenges throughout their route. They will be facing the towering sand dunes while enjoying stunning scenery at the same time. They will also get the chance to admire the unique breathtaking golden dunes of the Empty Quarter desert (Al-Rub Al-Khali).”

He continued: “For this event to be a global success, we joined forces with the Red Crescent, the Civil Defense, the security forces, the municipalities of the cities through which the race passes, and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.”


Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

Updated 19 February 2020

Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

  • Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands

ALULA: More than 260 athletes from around the world took part in the recent EcoTrail AlUla, a multi-track running race through the dramatic landscapes of AlUla in Saudi Arabia’s northwest.
Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands. The race was staged as part of the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla to promote the historic site as an exceptional tourist destination for heritage, arts, culture and sports.

Events took place on three different courses — an 83 km track, followed by a 45 km and a 10 km track — with international athletes taking part in each of the races.

In the 10 km course, 139 contestants took part in the competition, with 125 managing to complete the run. Saudi runner Mohammed Madkhali won first place, while Yemeni runner Fares Aman Aldin came in second and another Saudi runner, Meshari Almuhanna, finished third.

In the women’s category, US runner Meredith Byrne won first place, Saudi runner Sarah Abdullatif came in second, and British runner Maureen McConnell finished third.

Ninety athletes took part in the 45 km race, with 85 finishing. Saudi runner Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi came in first, with Australian Matthew Sudich second and French runner Nicholas Mordelet in third.

In the women’s category, Dutch runner Floortje Rawee came in first, followed by Italian Alessandra Grassi in second and American Natasha Turak third.

The 83 km race featured 37 athletes with only 17 finishing. In the men’s category, US runner Michael Wardian finished first, followed by Pierre Breuer from Belgium in second and Malaysia’s Soonseng Ong third.

In the women’s category, Amy Sproston from the US ranked first, with Ruth Theresia from Indonesia second and American Rachel Bessette third.

EcoTrail AlUla attracted athletes from around the world, most notably the US, UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Jordan, Oman, Peru, Poland and Indonesia.

The one-day trail gave visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with AlUla and its distinctive natural, cultural, architectural and historical monuments. The trail is an eye-catching destination for running enthusiasts and jogging clubs, and will encourage people to visit AlUla and Saudi Arabia to take part in a global sporting event that promotes environmentally friendly principles and initiatives.

The race contained several medical care stops and catering stations, and each participant received a number in addition to a welcome gift and a shirt. An inaugural dinner was held to welcome contestants on the night before the race.

EcoTrail AlUla is the first race to occur in the Middle East and one of the most notable sports events of this year’s Winter at Tantora festival. The race was sponsored by STC, Almarai Company, Sabeeka Energy Bar, Whites, and Hussak Adventures. The festival’s latest season also provides a wide range of diverse experiences that meet the needs of all visitors and entertain all tastes, for individuals, groups or families from all walks of life.

The festival began on Dec. 19 and will run until March 7, 2020. Guests of the second season of this year will be able to visit the astonishing historical and heritage sites exclusively, and attend the international musical and artistic performances.