The National: Palestine’s female racers: ‘When I drive, I understand freedom’
by Tanya Habjouqa
With the Gulf of Aqaba shimmering behind her, 21-year-old Noor Daoud showed what she was made of as she flew into first place for women in Israel’s first legal car race, a two-day event in Eilat last weekend that featured Formula Renault cars in a traditional grand prix-style format. Daoud was overcome with emotion as the solo Palestinian female racer competing with Israelis. The win brings her one step closer to her dreams of racing internationally.
Born in Texas and with a wild mane of hair, Daoud is a daughter of the diaspora whose life has taken her around the world – from boarding school in Switzerland to sports studies in the US state of Florida. However, while she chooses to focus on sports, not politics, she still has vivid memories of crossing checkpoints in East Jerusalem and emptying her backpack for soldiers on her way to and from school. While Daoud is devoted to racing, you can find her assisting her mother’s Ramallah-based haute couture clothing store, at times teetering in Prada heels and Dolce & Gabbana dresses until she bolts out the door to practise for Palestine’s Speed Sisters – the first all-female racing team in the Middle East.
In many ways, the six women represent the diversity of what Palestine has become – fragmented West Bank cities divided by checkpoints, settlements and lifestyle differences depending upon identification and socio-economic class. Yet they are tied together by an intense love of racing, their Palestinian identity and their willingness to compete in a male-dominated sport.
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