A group of businesswomen and activists from all over the globe met in Lebanon this weekend for the second edition of Lebanon’s women-only classic car rally, Rallye Des Graces.
“I brought these women to Lebanon to promote business between Arab and foreign countries, while also promoting the economy and tourism of the country,” organizer and president of the rally Chahrazad Rizk told The Daily Star.
The race began Saturday morning at Downtown Beirut’s Zaitunay Bay. Participants and their navigators drove southeast of the city toward the Chouf area, with stops at Moussa Castle, Beiteddine and Moukhtara, before arriving at Mir Amin Palace, where they stayed for the night.
The drivers took off the next morning from the palace, headed for the finish line at the Beirut Waterfront, were they were greeted in the afternoon by musical performances, their families and friends.
While the rally isn’t a timed race, the participants are ranked based on a point system, with points deducted for penalties such as failing to reach the checkpoints within a certain time.
Coming in at first place was Lilia Assaf from Switzerland, who owns her own fashion store in Geneva.
An honorary dinner was held Sunday evening for all the participants at Sursock Palace in the heart of Ashrafieh.
“This is all about women empowerment, it is about women in business getting together to share ideas, to collaborate,” said driver Sharon Amezcua, an American serial entrepreneur and investor at financial services company ESE Partners, who had also participated in last year’s inaugural edition.
The event demonstrates that “each woman has value and each woman is significant,” driver Princess Tania of Bourbon Parme, a French designer who owns her own company, told The Daily Star. “I came to discover Lebanon, and to be with all these women who are leaders in their field, and to meet new people from all over the world,” she added.
Several drivers spoke to The Daily Star about the misconceptions they have heard about Lebanon from people around the world.
While the rally does promote women’s empowerment, it also serves to convey a positive message of the country’s stability, safety and beauty, said Amal Ouarid, who participated as a navigator and hails from Morocco.
Amezcua agreed. “I think that everyone should visit Beirut because Beirut is such an exquisite place and I think people are very surprised. ... Coming here and seeing the culture is so important for so many people around the world, particularly for Americans,” she said.
She praised Rizk for bringing Americans like her to Lebanon, to open their eyes to the peace and beauty surrounding the country while also promoting women.
Many participants expressed their gratitude for Rizk organizing the event. “Thanks to Chahrazad ... it is a great idea to start doing this for Beirut and its tourism ... it is an amazing country,” said Rosa Belen Aiello, a driver from Mexico.
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