Two years in the Saudi fast lane: ‘driving changed my life’

Two years after the ban on Saudi women driving was repealed, one resident of Makkah talks about how it helped her get a job and made her self-reliant

Two years on the road: how life has changed for Saudi women

Two years on the road: how life has changed for Saudi women
Powered by automated translation

Two years after Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive, one woman living in Makkah says the licence has changed her life.

Rawan Fairq, a barista, told The National that being able to drive has allowed her to find a job she enjoys and freed her from relying on men to go anywhere by car.

“Driving made me depend on myself. I searched for a job and I found one,” Ms Fairq told said, donning brown-shaded sunglasses as she sat behind the wheel of a Honda sedan.

“I am doing all the family errands. Some days, I drive my sister to her work. Some days, I take my mom to the supermarket, although I’m the youngest.”

Ms Fairq said she had grown accustomed to the driving ban for women, although her mother encouraged her to learn how to drive. Today she is saving to upgrade from her family’s relatively old Honda to a new Mazda.

“My mother really supported and pushed me to drive, until I got excited and asked our driver to teach me,” she said.

The lifting of the ban in June 2018 came amid sweeping social reforms that underpin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernisation drive of the kingdom. Part of the plan is encouraging Saudi women to join the labour force as he forges an economy not dependent on oil revenue.

Saudi academic Haifaa Faqeih, who teaches at Um Al Qura University in Makkah, said the sight of thousands of women driving in the kingdom is helping to change dismissive male attitudes.

She said women in the kingdom  “have become stronger.”