First batch of Saudi women receive driving licenses 

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Esraa Albuti, an executive director at Ernst & Young, shows her driving license issued by the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh on Monday. (Saudi Information Ministry photo via AP)
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Tahani Aldosemani, an assistant professor at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University in Al-Kharj, Riyadh region, displays her driving license that she received from the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh on Monday, June 4, 2018. She was one of the first 10 women to get a Saudi driving license since the Kingdom lifted the world's only ban on women driving. (Saudi Information Ministry photo via AP)
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A Saudi woman speaks to an officer before her driving exam at the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Saudi Information Ministry photo via AP)
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A Saudi woman buckles her seat belt before doing a driving test at the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh on Monday, June 4, 2018. (Saudi Information Ministry photo via AP)
Updated 05 June 2018

First batch of Saudi women receive driving licenses 

  • Saudi Arabia is all set to allow women driving in three weeks, about ten months after a royal decree was issued announcing the end of a decades-long ban on women driving.
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen as the force behind the lifting of the ban.

JEDDAH: History is in the making in Saudi Arabia as the General Directorate of Traffic issued first driver’s licenses to 10 women on Monday.

The Kingdom is all set to allow women driving in three weeks. An official statement said the 10 women who were issued licenses already held international licenses. They took a brief driving test and eye exam before being issued the licenses at the General Directorate of Traffic in Riyadh.

Following the issuance of licenses, a video showing a woman receiving here Saudi driving license went viral online. The social media was also abuzz with the news and excited Saudis took to Twitter to express their feelings on this historic day.

“Thousands of congratulations to the daughters of the homeland, being issued the first license in Saudi Arabia,” a tweet by @saudalzmanan read.

Congratulations poured in as other tweeps expressed their happiness for the woman who appeared in the video. “Congratulations. I want to befriend her so that she can pass by and give me a ride and maybe show me around Riyadh city with her,” said Maryam (@m36010216).

“Thanks to the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques (King Salman), we finally saw the license being handed over to our Saudi sister by a Saudi authority. Now, not only you can drive abroad (but in Saudi Arabia as well),” said Louie Alfassi (@Louie_alfassi).

“This is one happy lady. Good luck,” See Brown (@sebbrown86) commented on the viral video.

This will allow women across the Kingdom drive their cars from June 24. After confirming the validity of foreign licenses submitted via an online portal (, and assessing applicants’ ability to drive by conducting a practical test, the first group of women received their Saudi licenses on Monday.

This measure is part of the traffic department’s preparations to implement a royal decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia. 

In September 2017, a royal decree announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving.

Five Saudi universities have launched driving schools for women: Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh, King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Tabuk University, Taif University and Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University.

The Saudi Driving School, at Princess Nourah University, the first for women in the capital, was launched in partnership with the Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai, an established driving school in the region.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, is seen as the force behind the lifting of the ban. His Vision 2030 reform plan for a post-oil era seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the work force, up from about 22 percent now.

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 37 min 24 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”


 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.