The motorsport world has long remained a male-dominated affair, but women in the Middle East are riding out cultural barriers by defying norms, changing narratives, and paving the path for future generations.
The Middle East has become a hotspot for the global racing community ever since the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004. Since then, the region’s very own racers and drivers—both men and women— have shone.
Racing professionally for women transformed from being a pipe dream to becoming an attainable reality in 2022 with the inauguration of Rally Jameel—the nation’s first ever all-female rally.
From dominating the wheels to becoming board members, here are some of the Middle Eastern women pushing boundaries and vanquishing stigmas, one motorsport at a time.
Aseel Al Hamad – Saudi Arabia
An entrepreneur, interior designer, and motorsport enthusiast, Aseel Al Hamad is the first woman to be appointed as a board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation. She is also one of the representatives of the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission,” which creates programs and initiatives to encourage and inspire young girls.
In 2019, ahead of the FIA’s Diriyah ePrix ‘Girls on Track,’ Al Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle — the Taycan — from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.
Reema Juffali – Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’ first female racing driver, Reema Juffali has established herself as an inspiration to women athletes in Saudi Arabia and across the world. Juffali began her career in 2018 and was named Saudi women’s Formula 1 ambassador in 2021. She currently competes in the International Grand Tourer (GT) Open with her own team, Theeba Motorsport.
Dania Akeel – Saudi Arabia
A passionate athlete and record-breaker, Dania Akeel is the first Saudi woman to obtain a license for motorcycle circuit racing. She is also the first Saudi woman to participate in an international rally competition as well as the Dakar Rally —a rally where participants compete in deserts, as well as muddy and mountainous terrain.
Amna Al Qubaisi — United Arab Emirates
Amna Al Qubaisi is the first Emirati female race car driver. Al Qubaisi holds a series of firsts: she is the first Emirati woman to participate in motorsports with the Daman Speed Academy, and the first Arab woman to be in the Rotax MAX Challenge (RMC) World Finals. In 2018, she also became the first Middle Eastern woman to take part in a motorsport test program for Formula E after the Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia.
Yara Shalaby — Egypt
Yara Shalaby is the first and only Egyptian woman rally driver and desert-racing champion. Shalaby, who is also a software programmer and mother, is the first Egyptian woman to race at the Pharaohs Rally. She has also won top prizes at the El Gouna Rally Cup, Al Remal Desert Challenge Rally, and Al Farouky Desert Challenge.
Noor Daoud — Palestine
A champion from Palestine, street racer Nour Daoud is the Middle East’s one and only female drifter. Daoud had a passion for cars since she was of a young age, but not until 2011 did she pursue drifting professionally. Daoud is also known for being a part of the Speed Sisters—alongside Marah Zahalka and Betty Sadeh—an all-female, Palestinian automobile racing team that competes on the West Bank’s professional car racing circuit.