Vehicle dealers gear up for Saudi women to hit the roads

Saudi Women Gear Up For New Freedom As Driving Ban Ends Tomorrow

Saudi Women Gear Up For New Freedom As Driving Ban Ends Tomorrow

The Saudi Driving School is one of a few catered to women across the country, with plans of expansion across all major cities.

Al-Hamad, who is from Saudi Arabia, drove a Formula One auto for a lap of the Le Castellet circuit Sunday, the day that a ban on women driving in the Gulf kingdom ended.

The lifting of the ban has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban.

While there was no formal ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia women, have been unable to obtain a driving licence.

"A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand", Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting. "I feel free like a bird".

The kingdom earlier this month began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades, with some swapping their foreign permits for Saudi ones after undergoing a practical test.

"Then I ask my husband about the specs so he takes a look at it to see what it's like and if it's durable", she said. "I like to be a princess with someone opening the auto door for me and driving me anywhere". The country, it seems, still has a long way to go before women's rights equal those of men. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

For some, though, the jubilation Sunday at realizing a hard-won freedom will be tempered by the arrests last month of a number of Saudi rights activists, including some who have played a prominent role in the fight for women's right to drive.

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Saudi women can not still mix freely with members of the opposite sex apart from in places like hospitals, medical colleges and banks.

"I am happy to see the women of my country driving, perhaps they may need to drive but have no brothers to help them", said Riyadh resident Abdullah al-Autawi. The conservative Muslim kingdom had announced past year that it would lift its ban on female drivers at the end of June.

26 September 2017: King Salman orders preparations to be made for women to eventually be allowed to drive. Many haven't had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses that were first offered to women only three months ago.

"While we welcome the fact that women can finally get behind the wheel, we should not forget that many people are still behind bars for their work in fighting for women's rights in Saudi Arabia".

Some women simply prefer to wait and see how the situation on the streets pans out and how male drivers react before they jump in the driver's seat.

Other women already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves.

"We all know that culture does change with time", he said. "It will take me two months to save up enough to pay for the license fee", 20-year-old literature student Salwa al-Zahrat told Reuters, "and then it will take me three years to save up for a auto".

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