Daring to straddle the gender gulf: A Saudi woman dresses like a dude to drive a bus
An Algerian woman drives a bus (image used for illustrative purposes)
A Saudi woman said that she had to disguise herself as a man to be able to drive a bus and help her needy family.
Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, even though there is no legal text to support the ban.
However, Saliha who lived with her parents and four sisters in a remote area in the south west of the Saudi kingdom, said that she volunteered to take up the job to assist her old father.
“I live with my parents and four sisters and our conditions are very difficult,” Saliha said. “One day, my father thought about launching a bus service to drive female students in our area to their schools. He discussed the idea with the village men and they all agreed since they trusted my father and they were confident that he would be keen on protecting them. They also thought that driving the bus would be an opportunity for him to make some money,” she told local Arabic daily Al Sharq.
However, Saliha thought that she could help her father and do the job instead.
“I looked at his poor health condition and advanced age and I requested him to allow me to replace him, especially that I was a good driver. My father in fact taught me how to drive since I was young. It took some time before he was convinced that I could drive the bus instead of him,” she said.
Saliha put on a man’s clothes, hid her facial features and sat behind the steering wheel. For some time, nobody spotted the ruse.
“One day, I put on henna designs and some young men saw it,” she said.
“They assembled around me to try to understand why a 'man' would put some henna on and I told them that I was a woman and explained the whole situation. The next day, some elders from the village came to see my father and we were afraid they would reprimand him for what happened. However, we were relieved to learn that they were delighted with the fact that I could drive their daughters to school,” she said.
Saliha said that she reverted to her woman’s clothes and that she was earning SR4,000 a month for her job.
“The fact that there is no traffic police in the area and the absence of major administrative facilities have enabled me to drive freely,” she said.
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