Cars, apps and driving schools — Saudi women drivers targeted as new market

Saudi women check a car at an automobile stand in Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 10 October 2017
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Cars, apps and driving schools — Saudi women drivers targeted as new market

BEIRUT: Ride-sharing apps, carmakers, and driving schools are targeting their newest market — Saudi Arabian women — wasting no time after the Kingdom lifted its ban on women drivers last month.
Ride-hailing service, Uber, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday it was aiming to recruit female training drivers for Saudi women who want to work for Uber by the end of the year.
The company will open its first ever “female partner support center” to be on hand to support women drivers.
“We want to do a dedicated center for females who want to be on the platform as drivers in Saudi Arabia,” Shaden Abdellatif, Uber spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, said by phone from Cairo.
In a royal decree issued on Sept. 26, Saudi King Salman ordered an end by next year to the ban on women drivers.
The decision is expected to push women into the workforce and boost car sales. Uber said it wanted to be a part of the “progressive changes.”
“Your car can essentially be your small business (which) will be quite appealing for women there — it’s that idea of part-time work opportunity,” said Abdellatif.
Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, an all-female school in Riyadh, announced on Twitter after the news broke that it will set up a driving school for women, a first in the country.
Carmakers were also quick to welcome the royal decree — that ordered new rules allowing women to drive be drawn up within 30 days and implemented by June 2018.
“Congratulations to all Saudi women who will now be able to drive,” Nissan said in a Twitter post depicting a license plate bearing the registration “2018 GRL.” BMW, whose X5 SUV is the group’s Middle East top-seller, also saluted the move.
The arrival of women drivers could lift Saudi car sales by 15-20 percent annually, leading forecaster LMC Automotive predicts, as the Kingdom’s “car density” of 220 vehicles per 1,000 adults rises to about 300 in 2025, closing the gap with the UAE.
However, the rule change could spell bad news for some of the 1.3 million men employed as chauffeurs in the Kingdom, including a large share of its migrant workforce.


FaceOf: renowned Saudi poet Ibrahim Khafaji

Updated 16 min 53 sec ago
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FaceOf: renowned Saudi poet Ibrahim Khafaji

  • Khafaji composed several national and lyrical poems that were sung by prominent artists throughout the Arab world
  • Aside from being a poet, he also worked in government in various capacities

JEDDAH:  Born in Makkah in 1926, Saudi poet Ibrahim Khafaji is famous for writing the lyrics of the Saudi national anthem in 1984. Before that date, it was music without lyrics. 

He wrote and composed several national and lyrical poems that were sung by prominent artists throughout Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, such as Sabah, Talal Maddah, and Mohammad Abdu.

Khafaji served in several jobs in the public sector. He worked in the news section of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, then moved to the radio section. He also worked at the accounting department in the Ministry of Health. He later became head of the department and then the financial administration secretary.

Eventually he became the central inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture in the western region.

Khafaji said in an interview on Rotana channel that the story behind the Saudi national anthem goes back to when King Khalid was on a visit to Egypt and was received by President Anwar Sadat. King Khalid was impressed with the Egyptian national anthem and asked the officials to work on lyrics for the national anthem of Saudi Arabia which was composed by the Egyptian composer Abdul-Rahman Al-Khateeb, and gifted to Saudi Arabia upon the orders of King Farouq of Egypt. 

Kafaji was chosen as the Saudi poet to work on the national anthem lyrics. He worked on it for six months. 

The Saudi public was first introduced to the national anthem lyrics on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in 1984. It was broadcast by the Kingdom’s radio and television during King Fahd’s time. 

Khafaji died at 91 in November 2017 and he was buried in Makkah.