With the 2024 Dakar Rally set to be the fifth in her home country of Saudi Arabia, Maha Al-Hamali will make her début in the legendary race.
Al-Hamali is currently second in the T4 standings of the FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, opening the season with a second in her hometown Saudi Baja followed by a third at the Qatar International Baja in March. Her co-driver for both events was Annie Seel, a longtime Dakar veteran who was part of another all-female lineup at the 2023 Dakar Rally with Annett Fischer in T3.
“On the last day, we passed an area that consisted of sand dunes, white mountains, and towering heights overlooking the sea, and the color of the sea was very blue,” she recalled in a segment for Independent Arabia. “Frankly, once the view captivated me to the point where navigation alerted me that my speed was supposed to be faster because the area we were in was the Arar region where I wasn’t supposed to drive. After I finished the race, I asked about the area, and they told me to reach the borders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“This experience is the thing that made me discover my potential, and it is the factor that doubled my passion and love for this sport. At the end of this year, I will participate in the Dakar Rally 2024, which I believe is in Saudi Arabia for the fifth time. There will be new paths in different terrains within the beloved Kingdom, and I’m very excited to go through this experience.”
In early March, Al-Hamali competed in the Rally Jameel, an all-women’s rally held in Saudi Arabia, and finished fourth overall with Taye Perry as her navigator. Perry currently works with Dania Akeel, the first Saudi woman to compete in the World Rally-Raid Championship. The inaugural Rally Jameel in 2022 marked Al-Hamali’s first time competing in rally raid; despite her inexperience, she placed third with Seel winning.
Outside of racing, she works as a general manager of special projects for Abdul Latif Jameel.