Bumper cars are serious business for would-be women drivers in Saudi Arabia

Published June 21st, 2016 - 10:20 GMT
Men at al-Shallal Theme Park relish crashing into other bumper cars, but women come just to experience driving. (Shutterstock)
Men at al-Shallal Theme Park relish crashing into other bumper cars, but women come just to experience driving. (Shutterstock)

On women's night at the al-Shallal Theme Park in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, there are long lines to ride the bumper cars - but you won't see people intentionally colliding here.

"I come here to drive," Joudi al-Omeri told the Wall Street Journal.

When a black curtain goes up around the bumper car area, women flock there for driving practice, gliding around in the two-seater cars, scolding anyone who intentionally bumps into their car.

A few collisions still occur, but for the most part, the women come here to scratch the itch to drive - even if it's behind the wheel of a toy car.

In Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving, even in emergency situations, activists, writers, and some politicians are campaigning to lift the ban. Proponents cite financial benefits to lifting the ban: in Saudi Arabia, only 23 percent of women have jobs - and many who would work simply can't afford a driver to take them to and from work everyday.

Opponents, however, continue to argue that allowing women to move freely without a male guardian would expose them to social evils and would bring about the dissolution of conervative Saudi society.


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