North African sandstorm ‘Madar’ disrupts life in Saudi Arabia

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A dust storm sweeping across Saudi Arabia hit Jeddah early Sunday. (AN photo by Ghazi Mahdi)
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A dust storm sweeping across Saudi Arabia hit Jeddah early Sunday. (AN photo by Arkan Al-Adnani))
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At sundown, the sandstorm in Jeddah and nearby places have yet to abate. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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A dust storm sweeping across Saudi Arabia hit Jeddah early Sunday. (AN photo by Ghazi Mahdi)
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A dust storm sweeping across Saudi Arabia hit Jeddah early Sunday. (AN photo by Ghazi Mahdi)
Updated 20 March 2017
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North African sandstorm ‘Madar’ disrupts life in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Sandstorm “Madar” is expected to continue disrupting traffic and daily routines in many areas in the Kingdom on Monday, with visibility expected to drop below 2 km in several areas, according to the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME).
Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall are predicted in Asir, Jazan and Najran while the wind speeds are expected to hit 55km.
Weather changes have caused flight delays and cancelations and school closures.
The dusty weather in Jeddah and other areas in the Kingdom is caused by a sandstorm that hit the Libyan desert in the past few days, and then passed through Egypt.
“We are in a transitional phase when changes in weather are expected,” Hussein Al-Qahtani, a spokesman for the PME, told Arab News.
The move from winter to spring is expected to bring rapid weather changes, strong winds and fluctuations in temperatures in the coming days, he added.
The PME issued a red color-coded warning “of severe meteorological phenomena” on Sunday due to the Madar sandstorm in some regions, including Madinah, Makkah and Riyadh. The visibility in these regions along with Al-Jouf, Tabuk, the Eastern Province and the Northern Border is expected to drop below 2 km.
“Jeddah’s case is the lowest on the scale of climate severity,” Al-Qahtani said. Yet some schools sent students home due to fears the weather conditions would worsen. Such conditions can be particularly risky for those suffering from respiratory allergies and asthma.
Dr. Hanan Fan, consultant pulmonologist at a public hospital in Jeddah, told Arab News that students with respiratory problems should take precautions if they go to school on a dusty day.
Fan advised people with asthma to stay home in such weather, keeping their windows closed. They also need to use preventer inhalers when necessary. If any dyspnea or persistent coughing occurs, a visit to an emergency unit is advised.
“In case of leaving home, you have to use the preventer inhaler 10 minutes earlier to avoid your condition (worsening) and turn into an asthma attack,” Fan said. “And, of course, don’t forget to cover your nose and mouth to stay on the safe side.”


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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