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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

Female diplomats in Riyadh rejoice as driving ban is lifted

Representatives from Canada, America and Italy got behind the wheel for the first time since 1957

epa06836503 Huda al-Badri, 30, poses behind a steering wheel as women are alowed to drive for the first time through the streets of the capita, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the early morning hours of 24 June 2018 when the royal decree lifted the ban on women driving a car in Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi Arabia took the wheel early on Sunday after lifting the decades-old ban as part of a liberation campaign in the conservative kingdom. EPA/AHMED YOSRI
epa06836503 Huda al-Badri, 30, poses behind a steering wheel as women are alowed to drive for the first time through the streets of the capita, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the early morning hours of 24 June 2018 when the royal decree lifted the ban on women driving a car in Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi Arabia took the wheel early on Sunday after lifting the decades-old ban as part of a liberation campaign in the conservative kingdom. EPA/AHMED YOSRI

Female diplomats in Riyadh joined thousands of Saudi women by getting behind the wheel for the first time to celebrate the lifting of the ban on women driving.

Like many women in Saudi, diplomats from Canada, America and Italy started their engines at midnight on Saturday for the first time since 1957.

Aliyah Mawani, the Counsellor and Head of Political and Economic Section at the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, described the moment as "life changing" as she hit the streets of Saudi's capital Riyadh with friends.

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

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 a heartfelt congratulatory message to all women driving.

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

The ban's end, ordered last September by King Salman, is part of sweeping reforms pushed by his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a bid to transform the economy of the world's top oil exporter.