Saudi women seek driving licenses in UAE

Updated 05 May 2013
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Saudi women seek driving licenses in UAE

Dubai traffic police are seeing an increase in the number of Saudi women seeking to obtain drivers’ licenses in the city and other cities within the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai Chief of Police Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan said police are receiving driving-license applications from Saudi women wanting to drive in Dubai and other cities, although he noted the number of requests are not particularly high.
He said Saudi women possessing driving licenses are permitted to drive in Dubai.
Although the number of Saudi women seeking to drive outside the Kingdom is relatively low, there is an increased interest to get behind the wheel. In fact, more and more Saudi husbands and fathers are supportive of the idea because it means convenience for the families and independence for their wives and daughters.
A 27-year-old Saudi living in Dubai discovered that learning to drive was difficult, but that she had to do it.
“When I first moved here, I used to rely on my husband and taxis to get around the city, but then my husband prodded me to enrol at a driving school to get my license,” she said. “At first, I found it difficult and could not get over my fear and learn quickly. Had I learnt how to drive at an early age, it would have been easier.”
Huda Jazzar, 30, is another Saudi who was embarrassed to confront her non-Arab friends about not being able to drive.
“I am always asking my friends to pick me up and drop me off when I go to Dubai almost every week,” Jazzar said. “I spent so much money on taxis and metros that I set aside a special budget just for that. I decided to enroll in the driving school in Dubai.”
Saudi women also head to Bahrain to receive driving instructions and exams.
“My father taught me how to drive at the age of 16 because he said I might need it someday, said Afaf Al-Yafi, a 28-year-old lecturer. “I remember he used to take me for a ride everyday after sunset in our neighborhood in Dammam. For my 21st birthday, my father drove me to Bahrain and applied for the driving school there and I got my license that I now use internationally, especially when I take my children to Bahrain for a weekend. I must say, this is the best gift anyone could have given me.”
Saudi women need to take the initiative and learn how to drive, according to Sabria Jawhar, a Saudi newspaper columnist who wrote about Saudi women driving issues in the international press.
“We live at an age where Saudi women work in the Shoura Council and we are witnessing a boom in the labor market. All we need is to be independent from our drivers,” Jawhar said.
“I sometimes wonder why don’t we just go for it, like the time King Faisal opened educational institutes for women and told his people it is optional for them to enroll,” adding, “If this issue is only being delayed because society is rejecting it, then they shouldn’t we open driving schools and leave it up to society to decide if they want to send their girls to learn or not.”
Jawhar said she is not surprised to see women flying to other countries to learning to drive elsewhere.
“This is a skill that everyone may need at one time or another. We all need to learn how to drive in case of emergency and women are taking the initiative to sit behind the wheel and learn,” she said.
“They are getting a license because their own country is not providing them with one so they are pushing them to go somewhere else.”
Jawhar noted that if there is “nothing from a religious point of view against driving,” then there isn’t anything preventing women from driving.


Riyadh book fair hears lecture on Bahrain culture industry

Updated 48 min 34 sec ago
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Riyadh book fair hears lecture on Bahrain culture industry

  • Professor Diaa Al-Kaabi presented a survey of all aspects of Bahraini culture, from the early 19th century until the present day
  • She also highlighted the role of prominent Saudis in the founding of major cultural institutions in Bahrain

RIYADH: Riyadh International Book Fair on Wednesday hosted Dr. Diaa Al-Kaabi, who gave a lecture on the role of culture in Bahrain, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The academic, who is a professor at the University of Bahrain, highlighted the role of prominent Saudis in the founding of major cultural institutions in Bahrain. She named Muqbel Al-Zukair, and the families of Al-Gosaibi, Al-Bassam, Al-Ajaji, Al-Mashari and others, as pioneers.
She also mentioned the cultural agreement that was signed in 1974 between the Kingdom and Bahrain as the first such agreement signed between the two Gulf states.
Al-Kaabi presented a survey of all aspects of Bahraini culture, from the early 19th century until the present day. She highlighted major trends in Bahrain’s cultural industry, and the role of societies, theaters and universities, as well as state institutions, in promoting the nation’s culture to an international audience.
She addressed the beginnings of the cultural movement under Sheikh Issa bin Ali, which she considered as the founding of the country’s cultural consciousness. 
It heralded the age of enlightenment in Bahrain, which was part of the modern Arab Renaissance starting from the early nineteenth century, she said.
Al-Kaabi concluded her lecture by stressing that culture, if nurtured, could be a pillar of economic development as it provided many job opportunities and its revenues were high. 
Bahrain is the guest of honor at the fair, which runs until March 23.
A Bahraini pavilion will host 13 cultural events including poetry nights, seminars and children’s programs over the course of the fair. In total, more than 900 global publishing houses are set to participate, with 500,000 books and publications on display, and up to a million visitors expected to attend.