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.


World’s leading young violinist to give two concerts in Saudi Arabia

Updated 19 July 2018
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World’s leading young violinist to give two concerts in Saudi Arabia

  • The performances will take place on July 21 at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh and at Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah on July 23
  • Chloe Chua of Singapore will be accompanied at the Riyadh concert by pianist Gordon Back, artistic director of the Menuhin competition

JEDDAH: Chloe Chua, junior winner of this year’s world-renowned Menuhin competition, is to perform in Riyadh and Jeddah.

The performances, organized by the General Authority for Culture (GAC) in Saudi Arabia, will take place on Saturday, July 21 at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh, while Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah will host the second concert on Monday, July 23 when Saudi pianist Eman Gusti will also perform.

Chua, the 11-year-old from Singapore, won the competition, considered a major international contest for young violinists.

Her talent began to be recognized when at the age of four she joined the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore. She also came first in the Andrea Postacchini International Violin Competition last year.

She will be accompanied at the Riyadh concert by pianist Gordon Back, artistic director of the Menuhin competition.

Back is a key contributor to major international violin competitions including the Queen Elizabeth in Brussels, the Carl Flesch in London, the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in the US, and the Menuhin Competition in the UK. 

His recordings include Bach and Schumann sonatas for violin and piano with French violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow, a series with British clarinetist Emma Johnson, and in 2011 he recorded all of 19th-century Moravian composer Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s works with Czech violinist Josef Spacek.

The fact that these two concerts have been organized displays the GAC’s commitment to featuring internationally renowned artists in the Kingdom. This type of event raises awareness of classical music, and is part of the GAC’s drive to provide diverse artistic experiences to audiences in the Kingdom.