Saudi Women Take The Wheel As Driving Ban Ends

By Nabih Bulos
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The move is expected to save families more than $5,000 a year as women no longer have to rely on chauffeurs or ride-sharing drivers.

Los Angeles Times

Maha Aqeel joined 14 other women at a friend’s place Saturday night in their hometown of Jeddah. A bit before midnight, they piled into five cars, waiting for the night to slide into Sunday. Once it did, Aqeel said, the women “were ready.”

Switching drivers every five minutes or so, their convoy made its way through the city’s crowded thoroughfares before heading to Jeddah’s seaside boulevard. There they joined the crowds that had come to mark the lifting of the ban on women driving, a burdensome edict and long-standing public relations black eye for Saudi Arabia.

“I couldn’t believe it finally happened, that we could drive in our land,” said Aqeel, a journalist and writer. “We just got the feel of it, but even being on the road for five minutes was great.”

It was another in the series of once unthinkable changes characterizing the year since Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the son of Saudi Arabia’s ruler, elbowed his way into the position of crown prince.

In that time, his stature has grown as the de facto leader of the country, one armed with an ambitious plan, called Vision 2030, to end Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil.

Yet even as he drives change, his year in power has been characterized by criticism that he tunes out other voices for reform.

“Beside this openness, there has been a closing off of any independent opinions,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist in self-imposed exile in Washington. “What is being said to all of us is, ‘You just have to take what I give you,’ and, ‘Leave me to lead alone.'”

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