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

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’

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.


Saudi Arabia’s first COVID-19 vaccine set for clinical trials

Saudi Arabia’s first COVID-19 vaccine set for clinical trials
Updated 16 min 5 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s first COVID-19 vaccine set for clinical trials

Saudi Arabia’s first COVID-19 vaccine set for clinical trials
  • It will go through rigorous testing and several trial stages before it is approved for use by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority

RIYADH: Preclinical studies on the first Saudi vaccine against COVID-19 have been completed.

Professor of epidemiology Dr. Iman Almansour, who heads the team of researchers working on the vaccine at the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC), affiliated with Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), confirmed to Arab News on Friday that the studies were complete, and said clinical trials would begin as soon as “the proper approvals” had been given.

She did not specify when that is expected to happen.

The Ministry of Education is financing the team’s project. The team’s research paper has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmaceuticals.

According to the published paper, the vaccine has so far proven effective, when used on animals, in eliciting antibodies that will target the virus. “The vaccine is given to the body to build protein inside cells, which stimulate the body to produce immunity specific to the S antigen,” Dr. Almansour explained.

Dr. Turki Almugaiteeb, director of Healthcare and Life Sciences at RPD Innovations, which runs the National Vaccine and Biomanufacturing Center, told Arab News: “There is a great focus on the results of medical research because of the pandemic. Research can play a great role in developing a vaccine that can be adopted and further developed in the future. We can say that the Kingdom has a strong infrastructure, which can help produce and manufacture a national vaccine.”

Both Almugaiteeb and Almansour stressed that the experimental vaccine will need to go through rigorous testing and several trial stages before it is approved for use by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.

Prof. Nasser Al-Aqeeli, the deputy minister of education for research and innovation, said the ministry supported programs at the Kingdom’s universities with more than SR500 million ($133.3 million) in 2020.