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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers - as it happened

Female motorists got behind the wheel for the first time in decades in Saudi Arabia on Sunday

At midnight on Saturday, women across Saudi Arabia were legally allowed to drive for the first time since 1957.

The National will bring you all of the latest news and reaction from the development, which was first announced by King Salman in September 2017.

Some six million women - or 65 per cent of the female driving-age population - are expected to apply for a licence.

Touch here for the story in full

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2020 The National reporter Naser Alwasmi, who has spent the afternoon at the Jeddah Adavanced Driving School, sends us these updates:

Abrar Nooh awaits at the Jeddah Advanced Driving School awaits to complete the last six hours of her training to receive her licence on June 24 2018. Naser Alwasmi for The National
Abrar Nooh awaits at the Jeddah Advanced Driving School awaits to complete the last six hours of her training to receive her licence on June 24 2018. Naser Alwasmi for The National

Abrar Nooh awaits at the Jeddah Advanced Driving School awaits to complete the last six hours of her training. When asked where she'll go first after getting her license, she pauses and says "anywhere, but with my mom."

As the youngest of a family of boys, she said that she also looks forward to driving her brothers around.

"I think they'll be shocked to see their younger sister drive, but I'll make sure they see how confident I am," the newly grad Saudi said.

But for her, getting a license goes beyond just impressing her family members.

"The moment they opened up the doors for registration, I went straight to apply. I want to work in this centre and help others achieve this dream," she said.

She said that along with allowing her to help out with at home, she wants to build a career based off training other women.

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19:30 Female diplomats celebrated with Saudi women by getting behind the wheel for the first time in the Kingdom.

US Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Ana Escrogima, marked the "historic day" by riding with her female friends in Jeddah.

Aliya Mawani, Counsellor and Head of Political and Economic Section at the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, described the moment as "life changing". Ms Mawani hit Riyadh's streets at midnight with a group of friends.

Rossella Rossi, an Italian diplomat in Riyadh, congratulated Saudi women by getting behind the wheel for the first time in the Kingdom.

The Italian Embassy sent out a congratulatory message to all Saudi women:

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15:50: Boost for work-life balance

The move has made mothers more confident in striking a work-life balance. For Dr Nada Farsi, being a professor at King Abdulaziz University while also raising two children meant timing almost everything in advance to ensure she maximises her day.

“It’s going to make things much, much easier, going to work, dropping the kids off to school and just having the choice to go out whenever we want to,” she said.

Having lived in Canada for seven years, the mother of two is well adjusted to participating in all the activities of her children.

Dr Nada Farsi is a professor at King Abdulaziz University. Naser Al Wasmi / The National
Dr Nada Farsi is a professor at King Abdulaziz University. Naser Al Wasmi / The National

But it was the simple daily errands or visits such as being able to visit her grandmother, who lives 10 minutes away, with ease that make a difference in her family life.

“Before, we’d have to wait for the Uber driver, if it was too hot to walk, or the driver to come pick us up. It could take up to an hour from the decision to go, but now that 10 minute drive is exactly that, a 10 minute drive,” she said driving her two children, niece and nephew.

Basma, her 8-year-old niece, giddy in the back of the family car, looked upon her aunt in awe.

“I can’t believe it,” she said kicking in her seat, “I can’t wait to drive!”

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15:20: WATCH ...

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14:20: Driving jacket launched

Luxury Saudi fashion label Hindamme has released a sports-luxe driving jacket to commemorate the lifting of the ban on women drivers.

You can get it in green or black and can see it here.

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14:05: Driving through Jeddah with Sara Murad

Watch as Naser Al Wasmi takes a drive with Saudi Arabian TV presenter Sara Murad through the streets of Jeddah.

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13:40: Carmakers in congratulatory mood

Our Motoring Editor Adam Workman has put together a selection of the best videos and initiatives from carmakers across the region, who have been quick to get involved in the celebrations.

While you can see what Ford did below, you can see the rest of them here.

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13:10: From the road to the racetrack

Aseel Al-Hamad will make another breakthrough for Saudi Arabian women on Sunday by driving a Formula One car ahead of the French Grand Prix, Reuters reports.

Renault said Al-Hamad would drive a 2012 car for a lap of the Le Castellet circuit as part of a parade of the French manufacturer's cars to mark the return of the race after a 10 year absence.

The same Lotus Renault E20 car took Finland's 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen to victory in Abu Dhabi that year.

Al-Hamad is already the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and on the Women in Motorsport Commission set up by Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

She first drove the E20 on a June 5 training day at the circuit as part of a familiarisation programme involving a range of cars.

"I have loved racing and motorsport from a very young age and to drive a Formula One car goes even beyond my dreams and what I thought was possible," she said in a statement.

"I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and spirit to dream."

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12:35pm: 'I'm seeing a lot of support from family and friends'

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11:55: Prince Alwaleed goes for a ride with his daughter

It was a family occasion for Prince Alwaleed last night, as he headed out for a ride with his daughter and grandchildren. The Kingdom Holding chairman posted this video on Twitter:

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11:45: Advertisers making the most of it

Almost every billboard in Jeddah today is advertising something related to women driving. Car dealerships are offering special deals on vehicles as part of the new move.

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11:05: Effect on taxis

Uber driver Adnan in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi / The National
Uber driver Adnan in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi / The National

Taxi drivers have been out and about this morning taking passengers on their commute to work. However, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of women passengers, according to Adnan, a driver for Uber.

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10:45: Capturing the anticipation

The National's Naser Al Wasmi was in Jeddah last night, as women eagerly awaited the stroke of midnight.

Read his full report on the build-up here

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09:35: Women drivers to boost petrol demand

The end of the driving ban for women will have an impact on petrol consumption, the energy minister said.

“There will be more cars on the road,” Khalid Al-Falih said in Vienna, according to a report by Bloomberg.

"Women will be more empowered and more mobile and I think they will participate more in the job market over time, so I think it’s going to contribute to employment of females in Saudi Arabia. A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand.”

When asked if he was looking forward to his daughters being able to drive, Al-Falih said, “absolutely”.

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08:30 UAE: 'Historic moment for every Saudi woman'

Women in Riyadh and other cities began zipping around streets which were bathed in amber light soon after the ban was lifted at midnight, with some blasting music from behind the wheel, AFP reported.

"I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden," said talkshow host and writer Samar Almogren as she drove across the capital. "I feel free like a bird."

Television presenter Sabika al-Dosari said the end of the ban was "a historic moment for every Saudi woman" before driving a sedan across the border to the kingdom of Bahrain.

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07:00- UAE time: Men in Saudi show support for women driving

A Saudi man shows support to Samar Al Moqren (L), who is driving her car through Riyadh city's streets for the first time as the law allows it on June 24, 2018. Fayez Nureldine / AFP 
A Saudi man shows support to Samar Al Moqren (L), who is driving her car through Riyadh city's streets for the first time as the law allows it on June 24, 2018. Fayez Nureldine / AFP 

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07:00- UAE time: #SaudiWomenDriving hashtag fills social media

As the sun rises on June 24, women across Saudi Arabia are waking with the knowledge that they can drive if they want to today. Some already got behind the wheel when the ban officially lifted at midnight.

As the hashtag #SaudiWomenDriving gains traction around the world, men and women from all walks of life are wishing Saudi women well. In Saudi, women shared their own thoughts about the historic meaning of the day.

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06:00- UAE time: Women share their thoughts on being able to drive

Latifa from Taif: “Honestly, I am just so happy to be a part of this. Who would have thought in my lifetime we would get this opportunity. I feel like it’s a new life for me, and I can’t wait to begin.”

Layla Moussa, 67: “I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime. I’ve waited long enough and now to know that my daughter-in-law, and my three granddaughters will have a normal life, it’s settling.”

Read the full story here

Amina Abu Al Ola guides Rohood Bugis as she takes the wheel in a virtual training area set up in Jeddah on June 23, 2018 as the clicked down to the midnight lifting of a ban on Saudi women driving on public roads. Naser Al Wasmi / The National
Amina Abu Al Ola guides Rohood Bugis as she takes the wheel in a virtual training area set up in Jeddah on June 23, 2018 as the clock ticked down to the midnight lifting of a ban on Saudi women driving on public roads. Naser Al Wasmi / The National

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05:00- UAE time: The road to reform

A timeline of how the reform happened:

September 2017: King Salman issues a decree declaring an end to the decades-long ban from June 24 2018.

October: Princess Nourah University in Saudi Arabia says it will open a driving school for women. It has more than 60,000 female students in Riyadh and other cities. Dubai's Careem holds recruitment session for women drivers in Saudi Arabia.

January 2018: Le Mall in Jeddah opens the kingdom's first car showroom aimed at women.

March: Princess Reema bint Bandar says "women driving is not the end all, be all of women's rights" in the kingdom. "These are things that are quick wins. We know we can do them - women in stadiums, women driving - that's great," the Vice-President for Development and Planning at Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority tells the Atlantic Council in Washington.

June: Driving licenses begin to be issued to women ahead of the lifting of the ban.

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04:00- UAE time: Saudi women share their driving experiences on social media

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02:30- UAE time: Police out late in the night to ensure Saudi women have the safest driving experience possible

Police cars on the road in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National
Police cars on the road in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National

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01:50- UAE time: Saudis celebrate the ban lift

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01:40- UAE time: Women drive themselves home after dinner

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01:30 UAE time- Naser Al Wasmi reports from Jeddah

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01:15- UAE time: Rosana drives the family for dinner

"It's just settling in," she said. "Now let's figure out where to eat." Rosana drives her family for the first time to get a late dinner.

Saudi driver Rozana Al Banawi, a leadership coach, takes to the road in Jeddah on June 24, 2018. Naser Al Wasmi / The National
Saudi driver Rozana Al Banawi, a leadership coach, takes to the road in Jeddah on June 24, 2018. Naser Al Wasmi / The National

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01:00- UAE time: Ban is lifted and women officially now driving

Naser Al Wasmi joins Rozana Al Banawi as she takes to the road in the kingdom for the first time.

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00:58- UAE time: Saudi women get behind the wheel

Our reporter Naser Al Wasmi is in Jeddah in time for the lifting of the ban.

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00:30- UAE time: Saudi police has set up booths for women to ask last minute questions before the big moment

A Saudi police officer speaks to women at the driving event in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National
A Saudi police officer speaks to women at the driving event in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National

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00:00- UAE time: Women who haven't got their licenses get a taste of the road through a go-cart session

A woman drives a go-cart in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National
A woman drives a go-cart in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National

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23:00- UAE time: Police out in full force to ensure the safety of women planning on driving tonight

A woman receives a driving lesson in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National
A woman receives a driving lesson in Jeddah. Naser Al Wasmi/ The National

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22:00 – UAE time: Saudi women receive driving lessons in Jeddah

In a sectioned off parking lot in Jeddah, the Saudi government's Centre for Communications have set up a makeshift soft launch for Saudi women looking to drive.

The event gives women the chance to drive, get a taste for the road and ask police questions before the ban is lifted at midnight Saudi time.

"That's it, I think I've figured it out," said Rohood Bugis, as she takes to the wheel of the virtual training area.

Amina Abu Al Ola, a trainer, corrects her advising her to be calmer on her throttle.

"It will be different when you drive a real car, make sure you're aware of everything," said the trainer.

"The feeling is amazing, the fact that at 12 my life changes and then when my daughter becomes of age in three year's her future will be ahead of her," Sultana Al Amri, culture manager supervisor.

A young woman wearing an abaya tries out a driving simulator at an outdoor educational driving event for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Sean Gallup/ Getty Images
A young woman wearing an abaya tries out a driving simulator at an outdoor educational driving event for women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

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21:00 – UAE time: Majority of Saudi women to take up driving this year

Eighty-two per cent in fact, according to a survey from online recruitment firm Gulf Talent. And it is set to have a significant impact on the country’s jobs landscape.

You can read more about that here

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20:00 – UAE time: Arab cover of The Beatles’ Drive My Car

Fans of The Beatles will want to tune in to this – an Arab cover of Drive My Car, which has been arranged to celebrate the change in Saudi policy.

The song, written mostly by Paul McCartney with lyrical input from John Lennon, originally appeared on The Beatles’ 1965 album, Rubber Soul, and was used as the B-side to Michelle when that track was released as a single.

The new version is arranged by Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash, and features the vocals of Syrian singer Nano Raies.

You can listen to it here

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19:00 – UAE time: Saudi women are steering their way towards brighter futures

The lifting of the driving ban is about more than greater independence, The National’s editorial explains:

Its impact will be felt far and wide and will not simply be restricted to the freedom to explore Saudi's roads. Saudi women will be able to run their own businesses, attend football matches, cinemas and concerts and travel unaccompanied without the impediment of needing a male guardian or a lack of mobility. By enabling women to deploy their skills and labour – be it in sport, culture or business – the Saudi economy will receive a significant boost.

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Saturday, 18:00 UAE time: Road traffic accident inspectors graduate

The General Directorate of Traffic and Najm Insurance Company said on Friday that the first batch of 40 female traffic accident investigators graduated following an intensive training programme.

You can read more about that here

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First western women to get their Saudi driving licences

Meanwhile, if you missed it a couple of weeks ago, The National caught up with the first western women to get their Saudi driving licences.

"It still feels very surreal. It's very exciting," Laura Alho, who is in her 11th year living in the Kingdom, told us. Kelly Downing, who received her licence, moved from the suburbs of Washington DC to Riyadh in late 2012.

You can read the full story here

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