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Saudi women drivers begin countdown to big day

Twitter account posts details of training sessions, and shares and sends out congratulatory messages

Gulf News

Dubai: Saudi women on social media platforms are counting down to June 24, when the kingdom lifts its decades-long ban on women driving.

On Twitter, some women created an account to provide updates on the topic. #WomenSaudiDrive posts locations and timings of training sessions, and also shares and sends out congratulatory messages to new drivers who post their driver’s licence on their Twitter accounts.

Al Sharq News congratulated Najah Hameedi on being the first woman to get her driver’s licence in the eastern city of Jubail. Hameedi tweeted: “My experience in replacing an international licence with a Saudi one was amazing, surprising and very smooth.”

According to a post Hameedi shared on Twitter, applicants are expected to go through a field test in order to swap their international licence.

Sara Al Sayegh, who now has a Saudi driver’s licence, told Gulf News that she heard about the lifting of the ban after a disappointing encounter with an Uber driver. Al Sayegh said she registered in the Saudi Driving School (SDS) and was in the first batch of trainees in Riyadh.

Al Sayegh said, “The [driving] ban removal will be on the same day I start my new job. Hopefully, I will drive my new car to work.”

Another woman, Ghada Badawi, expressed her delight at the lifting of the ban. Badawi, a Saudi currently taking driving lessons, shared a video on her Twitter account as she drove for the first time.

The first Western woman to receive drivers’ licence, Laura Alho, announced the historic event on her Twitter account.

Alho, a Finnish national and the author of ‘Blue Abaya’, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, which was started in 2010, tweeted on June 8, “Got my Saudi driving licence today! They told me I was the first European woman to get the licence today.”

Amsa Hathel, the first Saudi woman to drive in the southwestern Al Bahah province around 40 years ago, is now the first Saudi woman in her region to get a driver’s licence, according to the Saudi news daily Okaz.

The harsh living conditions in the village, and her mother’s illness, encouraged her to learn driving because she had to drive her mother to the hospital once every month.

Hathel added that after her father’s early death, her uncle taught her to drive. She also learned to fix the car if it broke down.

Hathel said she would use unpaved roads to avoid being spotted by traffic officers.

When she was getting married, Hathel told her husband she would only marry him if he allowed her to drive, which he did.

Hathel added that she is happy that women in the Kingdom will finally be able to drive and enjoy the rights granted to them by the country’s law.

The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s far-reaching liberalisation drive as he seeks to modernise the kingdom

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