Not having to look for a parking space is the ultimate relief for Saudi women.
“When we want to go to a shopping center or to the hospital, the driver drops us at the main entrance and drives away. We don’t have to care about remembering where we parked our car or parking far away from the door,” said Zaina Al-Salem, a 29-year-old banker. “When I travel to a country where I can drive, I’m usually burdened about the part when I get to park my car and walk all the way to the store.”
Usually, only the rich and famous have their own chauffeur, but in Saudi Arabia almost everyone has one, according to Shahad Ibrahim, a college student.
“I wouldn’t want to give up on that because I feel like a princess where my driver takes me everywhere I want without complaint,” she said.
“I don’t have to care about the gas tank or going to the workshop or anything, I just have to make sure that he gets his salary on time and that’s it.”
According to 38-year-old stay-at-home mother Layla Murad, driving in Saudi is not a fun experience.
“We always complain about Saudi men’s driving. What makes women better than them? At least men have been practicing this for a while, and if it happened for women then they would have zero experience,” she said. “Even the streets are not built well for driving. The streets are damaged and bumpy and most women will not be able to handle them. Saudi women don’t need to drive cars, they need to own magic carpets.”
Being harassed and bothered by young men who roam the streets is a big issue in the Kingdom.
“I had to get my window tinted so those young men would stop following me everywhere I go,” said Hala Bukhary, a 32-year-old school teacher. “To be honest I am frightened of the day where I have to drive my car all alone with all those young men following me.”
Saudi society is conservative and the people are not yet open to see women roaming the streets in their own cars.
“Some religious people give a woman the nasty look when they see her faced uncovered, and I don’t think that they would accept seeing her in the driver’s seat anytime soon,” said Doha Al-Youssef a 42-year-old housewife. “I know for sure that day will come when Saudi women can drive, and when that happens people will not accept it and fathers will forbid their daughters from driving. In fact they might get recruit a female driver instead of a male.”
By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR