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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

The Arabian Gazelles: Meet the UAE's first women-only luxury and supercar club

With 85 members who drive everything from Morgans to McLarens, the group are aiming to puncture the patriarchy

Hanan Mazouzi with her Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé. Delores Johnson / The National
Hanan Mazouzi with her Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé. Delores Johnson / The National

Life is too short to drive boring cars. That’s the motto of the Arabian Gazelles, who lay claim to being the region’s first all-­female luxury and supercar owners’ club.

They might be a ­relatively new concern, having formed just six months ago, but they already boast 85 members, of which “45 are hard-core petrol-heads and supercar owners” says Hanan Mazouzi, the group’s founder, an ­Algerian who has lived in the UAE for almost 20 years.

“I always had a passion for driving high-performance cars,” she tells me. When Mazouzi started to attend supercar test drives and track days, she was often surprised at the lack of women. “Why are women overlooked by this male-dominated industry? Everyone just seems to accept that and no one does anything about it.

After she took part in the Rallye des ­Princesses, a women’s rallying event in France, in October, ­Mazouzi decided to found the Arabian Gazelles. She sees it as “a platform for like-minded women to promote and share their passion for driving luxury and sport cars in UAE, to inspire other women to find their own calling or embrace our passion”. She hopes it will also help to change the existing motoring landscape and encourage a driving culture among women in the UAE.

The group run a popular ­Instagram page, on which members post an array of pictures of their power­ful possessions, but this is no mere online-­only, filter-fancy phenomenon.

The Gazelles regularly participate in events run by top-end ­manufacturers, such as a McLaren track day earlier in the year and, when I meet the group, at Dubai ­Autodrome driving Rolls-Royce’s latest high-­performance Black Badge models.

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“We have so far managed to attract 16 different nationalities, with ages ranging from 25 to 55,” Mazouzi says. “They all drive different car brands: Ferrari, Lambo [Lamborghini], Porsche, Bentley, ­Morgan, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, ­Maserati. We try to meet up twice a month. We do drive experiences, track days, exclusive drive-and-stay weekends and high-octane luxury events.”

While driving high-powered supercars has largely remained a rather male-­dominated pursuit, Mazouzi says that the Gazelles “are crashing this preserve”.

“And they are taking notice. Some of them respect and support us; others are still sceptical, and to those [people], I want to say that’s it’s no longer a male privilege. We are all supercar enthusiasts and bona-fide drivers who share the same passion and we too feel the same rush behind the wheel. We are not here to sit pretty on the passenger seat or cheerlead from the pits. We want to live and exude this passion just like they do.”

While many of the members at the Rolls-Royce Black Badge event are glamorously dressed, any misconceptions are swiftly thrown out of the window and run over unceremoniously when Rolls officials inform the waiting drivers that the evening’s drive won’t be at racing pace.

There’s an audible ripple of discontent – these women clearly prefer to be pushing their cars to the ragged edge, with brakes smoking and tyres screeching, rather than tootling around turning heads in a million-dirham-plus car.

“To join the club, one has to love being behind the wheel,” Mazouzi confirms, before listing various makes and models that also qualify you as a member.

“I decided to also include 4x4 vehicles such as the [Bentley] ­Bentayga and the [Mercedes] G-Wagon to encourage more local women to join us and enjoy driving these luxury vehicles.”

Mazouzi’s own pedigree as an owner is strong, with a real connoisseur’s sports car among her current two-­vehicle fleet. “I own a Morgan Aero ­SuperSport and a Rolls-Royce ­Phantom Drophead Coupé,” she says. “I’ve still not decided which one to add to the collection. They all are just incredibly tempting to own.”

When it comes to car devotees, arguments have long raged concerning certain criteria and classifications, but perhaps none more so than when it comes to defining what precisely has to align to warrant labelling a vehicle a supercar. Mazouzi has her own take.

“What constitutes a supercar is often a matter of opinion,” she says, “but I consider a combination of design, acceleration, top speed, handling, style, rarity and price – all of these has to be ‘super’ in a supercar.”

And just like her ambitions to expand her personal collection, for the Arabian Gazelles, this is likely to just be the beginning, Mazouzi says.

“I would love to encourage and inspire more local women to join us in creating this female car culture in the UAE and show the world that this country leads the way in empowering women in all domains.”

You can follow the Arabian Gazelles on Instagram @arabiangazelles