World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

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A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
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A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018

World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”

 


Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Saudi minister of environment, water and agriculture

Updated 22 min 50 sec ago

Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Saudi minister of environment, water and agriculture

Abdulrahman Al-Fadley has been the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture since January 2015.

He has extensive experience in operational management, as well as expertise in project and investment management.

He is chairman of the Saudi Arabian Grains Organization, the Irrigation and Drainage Authority, the Agricultural Development Fund, the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection, the Saudi Wildlife Authority, the Saline Water Conversion Corporation, the National Water Co., and the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC). 

Al-Fadley has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from King Saud University, Riyadh.

He worked in the petroleum industry for 13 years before joining Almarai food company in 1996, where he was the general manager and deputy CEO of its main factories in Al-Kharj.

He was then appointed CEO of Almarai between 2000 and 2015.

He also served as the chairman of International Dairy and Juice Limited, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Almarai, and also chaired the Dairy and Food Polytechnic, which Almarai established in collaboration with the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training to nationalize the dairy product industry.

Al-Fadley was chairman of the United Farmers Holding Company’s board of directors, a SALIC board member, and a member of the engineering board of King Saud University’s College of Engineering.