How Malika Favre’s Arab News cover image of a woman driving made its mark in Saudi Arabia

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French artist Malika Favre
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French artist Malika Favre who has created iconic covers for The New Yorker magazine.
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French artist Malika Favre’s design was recreated as a mural.
Updated 25 June 2019

How Malika Favre’s Arab News cover image of a woman driving made its mark in Saudi Arabia

  • An image that wrapped the special Arab News edition of June 24, 2018, took off as a popular symbol of the historic day
  • The French artist, whose mother is Algerian, is known for her minimal style and popular New Yorker covers

JEDDAH/RIYADH: An image by French artist Malika Favre, marking the day that women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia for the first time, has been formally recognised with a slew of awards after it became something of a cultural sensation.
The picture, commissioned to cover the special “Start Your Engines” edition of Arab News in June last year, took off as a popular symbol of that historic moment. It was downloaded as mobile wallpapers, replicated on hats, painted on a wall mural in Riyadh and, to celebrate its one-year anniversary, Arab News is giving away bumper stickers with it in today’s print edition.


It wasn’t just the masses that embraced the image. It went on to become the success story of the newspaper awards season, clinching seven design gongs, including the Society for News Design’s Award of Excellence for cover story illustration.
“For Arab News to be recognized on a global scale with so many awards is a great honor,” said Simon Khalil, global creative director at Arab News. “This highlights just how important this moment in history was for women across the Kingdom. We hope Malika’s work and our cover will empower women across the whole region.”
Favre, whose mother is Algerian, is an illustrator for The New Yorker, New York Times, Vanity Fair and Penguin Books. She’s known for her minimal style, with designs that are easily linked back to her through her use of vibrant colors and positive/negative spacing.
“As a champion of women for years through her unique creative style, Malika Favre was the obvious choice for our cover, and her illustration brilliantly captures the significance of this moment on the day Saudi Arabia changed forever,” said Khalil.
Favre’s illustration is of a Saudi woman in her headscarf, with her hands on a steering wheel reflected in her sunglasses (in the animated online version, her hands and the wheel move). “A story within a story,” the artist described it.
The artwork has resonated with a lot of people, to the extent that even those who were not Arab News readers at the time shared it and downloaded it in droves. Favre thinks that’s because it is about “empowering women and looking forward to the changes to come.”
Favre is a firm believer in celebrating even the smallest milestones in life. “The cover holds a very positive message, and I think this is what resonated with people out there, and especially the women of Saudi Arabia,” she said from her base in London.
Favre was not expecting Saudi Arabia’s reaction to the cover. “It is always an amazing feeling when an illustration starts having a life of its own.”
One Saudi female artist was especially moved by the cover. For a Panorama Mall contest in which she participated, Noha Al-Johar recreated Favre’s design as mural on the wall of the mall’s parking lot.
Al-Johar told Arab News that she went into the competition blindly, but then saw Favre’s illustration and knew what she had to do. For three days she replicated the design faithfully, right down to the street details in the oversized sunglasses.
When Favre came across a photo of the homage painted by Al-Johar, she shared it on her social media accounts. Al-Johar was very humbled by the attention. “I want to thank her,” she said. “She’s the definition of a visionary.”
Favre expressed delight at how her illustration has been received. “As an artist, getting awarded for a piece is very fulfilling,” she said.
“This cover was very important for me on a personal level as a woman, and I was really happy to see the image being shared, emulated and celebrated by other artists.”

From the archives: More about artist Malika Favre and her Arab News cover illustration


Abdullah bin Mufreh Al-Dhayabi, president of Tabuk University

Updated 11 December 2019

Abdullah bin Mufreh Al-Dhayabi, president of Tabuk University

  • Al-Dhayabi began his academic career as a lecturer at KAU
  • Al-Dhayabi is a member of the higher committees for female colleges in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah bin Mufreh Al-Dhayabi has been the president of Tabuk University since October 2017.

Prior to that, he was the deputy head of educational affairs at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, where he served in the position for one year. 

He has also been the chairman of the promotion and job competition committee, as well as the safety committee, at Tabuk University since November 2012. 

Al-Dhayabi began his academic career as a lecturer at KAU, where he received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the College of Science. 

He later traveled abroad to pursue his higher education, earning his master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Missouri, US. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Birmingham, UK.

After that, he returned to the Kingdom and joined KAU as an assistant professor. He remained in that position from 2005 to 2010, then served as an associate professor between 2010 and 2014.

Al-Dhayabi is a member of the higher committees for female colleges in the Kingdom and the community colleges higher committee at the Ministry of Higher Education.

He congratulated King Salman on the release of the government’s annual budget for 2020.

“Approximately one-fifth of the budget is allocated to education, which reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the human element through education and training ... to open new horizons and job opportunities for Saudi youth and encourage them to invest in the diverse resources in the Kingdom,” Al-Dhayabi said.