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.


King Salman urges Iran to junk its expansionist ideology

Updated 21 November 2019

King Salman urges Iran to junk its expansionist ideology

  • Saudi Arabia has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies, king says
  • Kingdom also welcomed US decision to return Iran's Fordow nuclear facility to its sanctions list

RIYADH: Iran should abandon its expansionist ideology that has only “harmed” its own people, Saudi Arabia's King Salman said on Wednesday, following violent street protests in the Islamic republic.

A wave of demonstrations erupted in the sanctions-hit country on Friday after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised by as much as 200 percent with immediate effect.

“We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realizes there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practices, without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people,” the king told the consultative Shoura Council.

“The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies,” King Salman said, quoted by the foreign ministry, reiterating that Riyadh does not seek war but is “ready to defend its people.”

A satellite image from Sept. 15, 2017, of the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

Saudi Arabia has welcomed Washington's decision to return the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran to the sanctions list. 

Washington said on Monday that it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site. 

“The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier this week.