Saudi women cannot drive in Switzerland

Updated 05 February 2015

Saudi women cannot drive in Switzerland

Saudi women can no longer drive in Switzerland because changes to local laws require all drivers to have licenses issued in their home countries, according to the Kingdom’s embassy in that country.
Saudi Ambassador to Switzerland Hazim Karkatli has issued a warning that driving on Swiss roads without a license from the Kingdom would constitute a traffic offense.
Saudi drivers must have a translation of their original license, in addition to an international license, Karkatli was quoted as saying in a local publication recently.
A Saudi citizen said three Swiss companies recently refused to rent him a car because he did not have his original license or a copy with a seal from the embassy. He only found out about the new laws when he visited the embassy, he said.
He said embassy officials in Geneva had informed him that the move is aimed at preventing some Saudi travel agencies from issuing international driver’s licenses to women even though they do not have ones issued in the Kingdom.
In a related matter, a source at the Saudi embassy in Germany said German traffic authorities allow people to drive if they have international driver’s licenses.
Rashid Al-Maqait, deputy chairman of the Saudi Society for Travel and Tourism, said that because of the government's lax control over the 1,500 travel operators in the Kingdom, there can be instances of violation of the law regarding the issue of international driver’s licenses.
Many of these violations can cause difficulties for Saudi travelers, but most occur at small travel offices. Large travel companies are careful to avoid mistakes that can affect their reputation. He said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities should have more control over travel agencies.
The Saudi embassies in Switzerland and Germany said that about 20 passports are stolen in each country every year. There are also several reports from Saudi tourists that their money had been stolen.
Embassy officials said that they work closely with the police in these countries to investigate the cases. The cases of theft are mostly for money, not Saudi passports, they said.
Karkatli said that another problem faced by Saudi citizens abroad is that maids sometimes run away so that they can get asylum and live in Europe or the United States.
He said only three maids ran away from their sponsors abroad last year, which was a result of the warnings that embassies have issued. He said Swiss police are not obliged to return a runaway maid to her sponsor. He said 30,000 Saudi tourists visited Switzerland last year.

Tanween festival: Seeking the unusual? You’ll find it at Ithra

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), which organized the Tanween festival, is a creative feat in itself. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 15 October 2018

Tanween festival: Seeking the unusual? You’ll find it at Ithra

  • Tanween encourages people to see something in a new way, try something they had not done before and explore their relationship to disruption

DHAHRAN: “Beyond Unconventional” is the subtitle of Ithra’s first Tanween creativity festival, and it is true to its word from what the Arab News team witnessed on its opening weekend at Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, aka Ithra, in Dhahran.

Running from Oct. 11 to 27 with talks, workshops, performances and installations, the three weeks are divided into themes: this week is “Humanities’ Response to Disruption,” in art, science and technology; the second week is “Manufacturing and Communication,” including disruptive technologies such as AI and big data; the third and final week is “Fashion Technology/Adventures in Disruption.” Curating this year’s festival is Robert Frith, the creative director of Ithra’s Idea Lab, who has worked as head of exhibitions at Christie’s and as a senior exhibition designer at the British Museum.

As it says in the program: “Tanween encourages people to see something in a new way, try something they had not done before and explore their relationship to disruption.” Many of the installations and speakers addressed the theme of disruption, including Adam Savage, who visited Saudi Arabia for the first time.


Heart Catherization

Abdullah Al-Othman

One doesn’t need to visit Ithra to experience Tanween. Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Othman wrapped a building in Al-Khobar entirely in tinfoil “in a symbolic gesture to its frozen state, making a statement about the absurdity of thinking that the cycle of change could ever be stopped.” We found it driving through the narrow streets near the Corniche, glinting in the sunlight, mosque-goers passing it by with barely a raised eyebrow.

Silent Fall

Studio Swine 

Founded by Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, it presents an “interactive intallation and multi sensory experience” consisting of “delicate mist-filled blossoms that disappear on contact with skin and surfaces.” It’s like a waterfall of durable white bubbles continuously falling from above making random patterns as they slowly drift down. Likely to be one of the festival’s Instagram hits.

The Drifter

Dutch Studio Drift

A block of what looks like concrete floats slowly along “a controlled 3D path.” “The Drifter creates a performance in its space, calling on the viewer to reconsider the relationship with our living environment, which is often accepted as static and lifeless,” the creators Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta said. There was nothing static or lifeless as visitors here laughed in delight as they pretended to lift it.


• AN photos by Ziyad Alarfaj