Countdown begins to Saudi women driving

Women who already held valid driving licenses from authorized countries found the process of switching to a Saudi one simple.
Updated 21 June 2018

Countdown begins to Saudi women driving

  • Women who already held valid driving licenses from authorized countries found the process of switching to a Saudi one simple
  • Many women plan to hit the road on June 24 and enjoy their new travel independence, without the need for a man to drive them

In just three days’ time, Saudi women will be able to take to the wheel and drive.

Many have been telling Arab News how simple it was to obtain a license, how much they are looking forward to driving — and what this transformation in Saudi society means to them. 

“It is as if I have been recognized as an equal citizen,” said Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fassi, a historian and columnist at Al Riyadh newspaper. “I have to admit that it’s a bit surreal.” 

Women who already held valid driving licenses from authorized countries found the process of switching to a Saudi one simple. 

“I have never seen such ease in obtaining my Saudi license, the easiest license I’ve ever gotten in my life,” said Noor Ashadawi, 36. a finance manager in Alkhobar. 

“After going through Absher and making an appointment at the Traffic and Road Safety Department website, we got an appointment for early Ramadan in Alkhobar. It was canceled, but I was given a new one for the next day.”

“The process didn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes maximum.  The staff inside were extremely friendly. I could say they were just as happy as we were to be there.

“It’s very exciting and reassuring to see that everyone is on board and supporting us.  I am, as are many, simply overjoyed, and can’t wait.”

Al-Fassi said:  “I felt strange going in the front door of the main traffic department, one of the taboo places for women in Saudi Arabia. But I was well received and guided to the licenses section immediately.”

Norah Al-Jaser, an employee at a telecommunications company, has registered in the driving school in Riyadh and hopes to obtain her license soon.  She has recently started attending theoretical driving lessons. “Attending the classes has given me insight into the traffic laws in place. I can see that unfortunately they’re not being implemented by many drivers, but I plan on abiding by the laws.

“I intend following the rules to the letter, or else what would be the point of taking all the necessary theoretical and practical lessons?  The material is very thorough and I believe it’s the most ideal lessons to ensure we succeed and drive safely on our roads.”

Many women plan to hit the road on June 24 and enjoy their new travel independence, without the need for a man to drive them. Others will wait it out for a while, in case the first few weeks on the road are hectic and chaotic.

“After driving for 18 years abroad, I’m elated with the fact I had my Saudi licence issued to me with tremendous ease,” said Najla Redwan, a home business owner and examiner at the Jeddah Advanced Driving School. “I am also an examiner at a school and I would like to drive in my city, Jeddah, which I hope to do soon.

“As an examiner, it’s my job to evaluate students and give them a passing or failing grade before they head to the Traffic and Road Safety Department. But I can see how driven and determined the students are to commit to the material being taught at the school and how much of a burden will be lifted once they get their chance at driving.

“The class has people from all walks of life, but one thing’s for sure, they’re here to learn and are determined to be the best they could be for their sake and the sake of this given right.”

And what will these women do on their first day at the wheel? “I’m planning to drive with my husband and children around Riyadh,” Al-Fassi said. “Celebrating will be the first aim, then I will see where I need to go on that day.”

“The gym and office, of course!” said Ashadawi, with a laugh. “I’m finally going to drive myself to work instead of quarreling with my sister over who takes the driver first.  It’s going to be good and I can’t wait.”


Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

We hope visitors would be inspired by the works they see, says Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 29 January 2020

Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

  • The seventh ‘21,39 Jeddah Arts’ event addresses the global environmental crisis under the title ‘I Love You, Urgently’

JEDDAH: The seventh 21,39 Jeddah Arts is back in town, addressing the global environmental crisis under the title “I Love You, Urgently.” Based at the Saudi Art Council’s hub in Jeddah, it parades the work of local artists.

Muhammad Hafiz, vice-chairman of Saudi Art Council, emphasized the importance of art in complementing societies, and how it is now being carried out by the state. He said: “This year we’re supported by the Ministry of Culture, who have kindly reached out to support us.”
Maya El Khalil, the curator of “I Love You, Urgently” paid tribute to Frei Otto, the masterful architect who has painstakingly contributed to memorable sights in the Kingdom and has been the inspiration for this year’s concept.
“In our part of the world, for the time being, these concerns (sustainability of the environment) aren’t a priority,” she said during the press conference to launch the exhibition.
 “It was interesting to see the artists go through a long process of research and study, building their awareness of their surroundings,” she said.
Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council, said that they hoped visitors would be inspired by the works they see.
He thanked the curator for choosing Frei Otto, one of the pioneers of biomimicry — the imitation of nature.
“With that humane concept, the artists started expressing their feelings about how they see nature; some went into architectural forms, filming, music; it’s really diverse,” he said.
Visual artist Marwah Al-Mugait is one of 21 artists who have participated in the main exhibition this year, making her third appearance thanks to the Saudi Art Council.
Al-Mugait’s creation can be sensed upon entry to the cavernous venue, where women’s chants can be heard. Upon inspection, behind a lavish white curtain, a video filmed in Riyadh is playing across a curved wall where a group of women come together in self-expression and self-preservation, before they huddle against an ancient tree and embrace it.
“This year is exceptional because of the theme; I’m so happy and honored to work with Maya El Khalil, who presented the concept of biomimicry,” Al-Mugait told Arab News.

FASTFACT

The exhibition hosts visits from schools organized by the Ministry of Education.

Al-Mugait began to work toward unseen elements to display “multi-layered emotional details” in her work in order to depict the senses rather than what meets the eye. Initially, the Riyadh-based artist felt anxious about applying this new concept to her background in film and performance.
 “Throughout my research, I was driven towards the topic of the defense mechanisms of species, plantations and human beings, specifically Mimosa pudica, which closes in on itself whenever a predator is trying to touch it,” she explained.
Al-Mugait also drew inspiration from the way bees deal with predators who attack their hive, during which they perform a shimmering wave collectively.
As she struggled to translate these mechanical moves into a body language that conveys how humans can defend themselves from inner and outer harm, psychological harm and abuse, she came across Movers in Riyadh, and two of their choreographers helped her shape her performance.
Al-Mugait chose 14 female dancers to depict empowered women, two Jamaican-British and 12 Saudis. “I wanted to trace that power which you cannot see with my camera, along with their interaction with nature. That moment when they hug the tree at the end is similar to the one you would get from a mother.”
During the first week of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a forum will be held with talks and panel discussions by the curator El Khalil and the artists of “I Love You, Urgently.”
The exhibition is open to the public, and also hosts visits from schools as part of educational trips orchestrated by the Ministry of Education, said Hafiz.
The event will run from January 28 to April 18, with further exhibitions taking place besides “I Love You, Urgently,” including “Architecture of Tomorrow: Frei Otto’s Legacy in Saudi Arabia,” which pays tribute to the inspiration behind this year’s theme, and “Sculpting Spaces — Architectural Desert Dwellings for AlUla”.
The Saudi Art Council is a non-profit initiative founded in 2014 by a number of art enthusiasts, and has been supportive of local artists and art movements in the Kingdom.