Saudi women cannot drive in Switzerland

Updated 05 February 2015
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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.


Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”