Apr 26, 2019
|After 30 years of discovering the beauty of Africa and a decade of adventure exploring the spectacular landscape of South America, a new chapter in the history of Dakar will be written as the world’s biggest rally makes its Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia.
Jeddah, the economic heart of the country, will host the start of the rally, launching a journey of more than 9,000 kilometres to the future Qiddiya complex, not far from Riyadh, where the rest day will take place.
Totally 12 stages on this vast country and its mosaic of deserts, mountains, canyons, valleys and coastal landscapes.
Start – Jeddah
2 TO 5 JANUARY: SCRUTINEERING AND START
Home to 3.5 million people, the second-largest city in the country is also its economic heart thanks to its commercial port on the Red Sea, which goes back to the 7th century. Just for once, the gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will also be a launch pad for the drivers, riders and crews of the Dakar. King Fahd’s Fountain, which ejects water at a speed of 375 km/h, and Jeddah Tower, which will soon reach a height of 1,001 m, will inspire the competitors with grandiose ideas and a burning ambition.
Rest – Riyadh
The sprawling orchards that gave the city its name («gardens» in Arabic) in the 18th century have mostly given way to an urban area extending over more than 1,500 km2 (versus 105 km2 for Paris and 203 km2 for Buenos Aires) and home to over six million people. The demographic growth of the capital since the 1970s has gone hand in hand with the building of striking skyscrapers born from revolutionary architectural ideas, including the 267 m Al Faisaliyah Centre, 302 m Kingdom Centre and 307 m Burj Rafal.
Finish – Al Qiddiya
17 JANUARY: FINISH AND FINAL PODIUM
The Dakar will be the first world-class sporting event held in Al Qiddiya, a city whose foundation stone was laid in 2018 and which will be focused on entertainment and culture. The vast complex, located about 40 kilometres from Riyadh, will include attractions such as a theme and amusement park, world-class sports facilities and multidisciplinary art centres. It is set to open to the public in 2022.
Saudi Arabia stretches over more than two million square kilometres —about four times the surface area of France. The largest country in the Middle East, whose population is concentrated in the towns and cities close to the sea, boasts a mosaic of landscapes that will put Dakar competitors through their paces on all fronts: driving and riding, navigation and endurance. It is a call to adventure.
To explore the contrasts
The available spaces offer the opportunity to take competitors on a real tour of Saudi Arabia, with each stage having its own specific landscape and idiosyncrasies. A wide range of landscapes will colour the rally, including canyons, dunes, mountains, wadis and more. It is a delight for the senses… and an ordeal for bodies and vehicles.
Close to the border with Jordan, mountain climbers can crown Jabal el Lawz —the Mountain of Almonds—, peaking at over 2,500 metres above sea level. For Dakar competitors, however, this vast mountain region that extends all t he way to Ha’il Region will be more of a maze. Top navigators will be able to make the difference by staying on course as they zigzag their way through the valleys.
Sand as far as the eye can see
In the far south of the country, almost a quarter of the country remains unsettled except for a handful of villages and oases. This immense and pristine area gives rally raid lovers a lot to work with. Even expert dune surfers will be put through the wringer with dunes over 250 metres high, while lesser drivers and riders are in for a very bad time.
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