Eureka ... (the solution for women to drive cars)

Eureka ... (the solution for women to drive cars)

ONE morning while I was drinking tea at one of the hotels, I met a man who seemed fully aware of the current social situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  He shook hands with me warmly as if he had known me for a long time. 

After we sat down, he stood up suddenly and exclaimed loudly as if he were singing and dancing, “Eureka... Eureka!” So I sarcastically replied, “Are you Archimedes?” 

He said no, so I asked him, “Then what have you found?” He answered, “I have found the solution for women to drive cars in the Kingdom.”

I told him, “Please lower your voice, otherwise the people around us at the hotel will think that we have lost our minds. Also, why do you want me to be involved in this issue?” 

He said, “My solution is a big investment opportunity, and I want you to be a part of it.  Further, my idea will solve a long-standing problem in the Kingdom.” 

So, I asked him, “What is the investment opportunity you are talking about?” 

He answered, “We will work with one of the international car factories in order to manufacture a vehicle with special specifications suitable for Saudi society. Moreover, the factory is available and ready to start manufacturing vehicles on the condition that the vehicles to be manufactured should not be less than one million cars within the next three years.”

But I asked him, “What is the relationship between such cars and women driving cars in Saudi Arabia?”

He replied, “Now you are asking me a very important question and its answer will explain why I jumped up exclaiming ‘Eureka... Eureka’!” 

He went on: “Let me draw a sketch for the car.” And he got a pen out of his pocket and he actually started drawing the sketch and explained his idea as follows: “We will ask the automobile manufacturer to produce vehicles with the steering wheel in the back, so the woman can drive the car while sitting in the back, on condition that the driver will stay in front as usual, but without any role for him in driving the car.”

I asked him, “So, what about the brake pedals?” 

He said, “We will put them also in the back.” 

I went further: “What about the gear box, horn, lights and other devices?” 

He replied, “Everything will be in the back of the vehicle.” 

I asked him: “Then what is the purpose for the driver to be in the front?” 

He said: “We will meet the current social requirement by putting him in the front and thus avoid any confrontation with anyone on the issue of women driving.”

But I asked: “How can the women drive the car while the man is sitting in front of her and preventing her from seeing anything?” He said, “Now you have started to understand what I am talking about, and your questions have become more pertinent. We have several choices including strictly preventing the driver from sitting in front of the woman driving the car but instead occupying the front passenger seat; he should be no taller than 120cm which will be required to recruit him to the Kingdom so he will not prevent the woman from seeing while she is driving; asking the automobile manufacturer to reduce the height of the front seat to be lower than the woman driver’s seat; or simply make the woman drive backward on condition that the people sitting in the front seats should look forward.”

I replied, “Don’t you think that such a thing is impossible?”

He answered, “Not at all! Look at other countries like England, Singapore, or even Kenya where they have manufactured vehicles in accordance with their own needs.” 

I said, “It seems that such an idea is worthy of study, but what do you want from me?”

He replied, “I need two things from you: The first is to convince Saudi authorities to allow us to import and sell such vehicles in the Kingdom, and second is to help me collect 25 percent of the total amount of the investment in the project through investors who are interested in joining us.” 

I replied, “Regarding the first request, I am an ordinary man like other people and I can’t help you in such a thing, and in terms of the second request, I am only an attorney and I have no experience in the automobile business. It seems that you have wasted your time with me, because I am not someone who can help you in such a matter.” After saying this, I arose and left the man. 

However, after I left, I spent a lot of time thinking about what the man has said. I couldn’t decide whether the man I met at the hotel was honestly talking about an investment opportunity, or whether he wanted to show how Saudi society is addicted to contradictions, or he was sarcastically criticizing an issue that our society has made a big deal of. Perhaps the man wanted to simplify the issue and show me that the entire issue of women being unable to drive in Saudi Arabia is simply a psychological barrier, illusion, and a mountain of fear created by our society.  Anyway, I have decided not to visit this hotel again so I will avoid meeting any other “Archimedes” who will encourage me to think! 

Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser is a Saudi lawyer and columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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