For one Saudi woman, new driving license is ‘a well-deserved privilege’

Updated 25 June 2019

For one Saudi woman, new driving license is ‘a well-deserved privilege’

  • Last year this time, Arab News did not have any female staff who possessed a Saudi driving license
  • One year on, the first successful applicant commutes to work every day with the family driver in the passenger seat

JEDDAH: At 10:55 p.m. on June 23, 2018, I was glued to my TV set in Hungary. I was waiting for the clock to strike midnight in Saudi Arabia and for the first engines to roar with my fellow Saudi women behind the wheel. I vowed to return to my home country and grant myself a well-deserved privilege — my own Saudi driver’s license.
I applied for my license in August on the Jeddah Advanced Driving School’s website as soon as I found an opening. I paid SR2,520 ($600) with the promise of a placement test at a later time. I called customer service, who explained that because of the high demand I should check every day until I found an opening.
The requirements were a valid ID card, a medical report and an eye exam. Clinics and hospitals are linked with the traffic department and the school’s database, so the school received the results directly.
I drove after returning to Saudi Arabia in late September, sometimes accompanied by my brother, to test the waters. Driving was allowed in areas where the police knew families practised regularly as long as they were careful. I know my city’s streets pretty well and driving wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be. But when I hit major roads I wanted to change my mind. It takes a while to adjust to the change from being a passenger to being the driver. But the training lowered my anxiety.
I took my placement test on Jan. 7. I entered the driving school and saw women instructors, some with past experience driving abroad and others recently employed after having passed the assessments. No men were allowed — and that was a welcome gesture for many.
I got behind the wheel of the car with my instructor, who didn’t look much older than 30. She smiled at me reassuringly as I eased the car toward the designated test area. I passed the placement test, even after struggling to parallel park. I was ranked intermediate, which meant I was required to complete 12 training hours.The hours were to be divided between classroom instruction and practice with an instructor. The school deducted SR1,102.5 from what I initially paid, and I will be refunded the remaining amount.
It took two months from the placement test to the theory classes and another two for the final exam. The wait was because of the volume of students applying. On May 14, I returned to the school one last time. I passed with a score of 87 percent.
I have noticed that drivers around me barely register that I’m a woman. I get looks sometimes, but they come with smiles and the occasional thumbs-up.


250 Saudi doctors volunteer for scheme offering free medical consultations

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago

250 Saudi doctors volunteer for scheme offering free medical consultations

  • The scheme’s health volunteers are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year
  • 45 percent of volunteers have so far been women

JEDDAH: At least 250 Saudi doctors and health practitioners have signed up to an ambitious community volunteer program offering free medical consultations to patients throughout the Kingdom.
The We Are All Sanad initiative, supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, aims to recruit more than 2,000 medics to offer expert advice and raise awareness on key health issues.
Covering around 30 specialties, the scheme’s health volunteers, 45 percent of which have so far been women, are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year.
The project is being run in tandem with Saudi government efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Head of the initiative, Dr. Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Hamali, said the volunteer advisers had already provided hundreds of free teleconsultations remotely through the Mawidy (meaning, my appointment) platform which had contributed toward achieving sustainable goals, such as improving community service, increasing access to health care, and raising health awareness.
The initiative, launched on March 1, has been designed to help overcome obstacles faced by patients in relation to access to health care.
“These challenges include geographic barriers, a lack of clarity in the appointments available to patients, the high costs of treatment in some private-sector facilities, and fear of disease exposure when visiting hospitals and clinics.
“We Are All Sanad provides services to everyone, however, priority has been given to beneficiaries of charities, especially under the unprecedented current conditions and the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens the health and safety of the world,” said Al-Hamali, adding that the program supported more than 15 associations.
The Mawidy app, available in Arabic, English, and sign language, offers telemedicine and appointment booking services, and users will soon be able to make home health care reservations as part of a raft of upcoming additional services.
Deputy head of the initiative, Dr. Sultan bin Faisal, praised the ministry for its support for health charity staff and beneficiaries through the provision of telemedicine consultations, educational lectures, and scientific seminars.
He said volunteers wishing to join the initiative could register through the Mawidy platform, provided they had a valid license from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, adding that the scheme offered a unique opportunity for health practitioners to exchange experiences.
Faisal pointed out that the team included 30 young volunteers who would receive skills development training through the Ibtikar program, which offered scientific and practical training courses.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom on Friday recorded 51 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total to 2,151.
There were 3,159 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 226,486 people had now contracted the disease. There were 61,309 active cases, with 2,220 patients in a critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, 296 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, while 249 were reported in Al-Hofuf, and 209 in Jeddah. In addition, 1,930 more patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 163,026.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 2,179,448 tests for COVID-19.
As part of the Kingdom’s strategy to tackle the virus outbreak, several services and products have been rolled out throughout the country.
These have included Takkad (make sure) centers which have conducted more than 480,000 lab tests, 239 Tetamman clinics which have dealt with at least 265,000 patients, the provision of an extra 2,500 intensive care unit beds, the building of four field hospitals, the carrying out of at least 2.1 million lab tests, and the conducting of 3.7 million medical consultations through the ministry’s 937 service center.