Women Learning to Drive in Saudi Arabia

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Translations of Arabic/Islamic Media

Translated from the original Arabic by Al Mutarjim

Hundreds of cars, the majority of them four-wheel drive, on the weekend head towards the road that leads to the King Fahd International Airport west of the city of Dammam. Most of them do not intend to travel, whether inside the country or outside of it, nor do they intend to meet travelers. Most of their drivers do not go to the reception area, but instead turn off to the right a few kilometers before arriving at the airport, to a sandy area with many dunes. This sandy eastern area outside the airport has been converted into an "open square" for teaching driver's education. Most of the students are Saudi women.

It is noteworthy that some of the girls, who go to the "Airport Dunes" weekly, have surpassed the basic driving stage, and have reached the point where they are learning advanced techniques such as drifting.

The number of those interested in driving at the dunes has greatly increased recently, especially after the return of many female students who had been sent abroad for study. The circumstances of their daily life (outside Saudi) required them to learn to drive, which has led them to want to practice here, "Fearing that we would forget what we had learned, and also in preparation for us making the attempt, in the event that we are officially allowed to drive soon," according to 'Abir Musa, who returned a few months ago from the United States.

'Abir did not hesitate to insist on daily practice, convincing her husband of the need to "Drive the car any way possible." She stressed that she had learned to drive during her academic studies in the United States, with encouragement from her husband. However, he "was reluctant to agree to my driving in the Kingdom. He only agreed on condition that I drive in areas far away from the main roads, fearing that people he knows would see me and he would feel embarrassed, in addition to his fear that I would be stopped by security officials."
Women Are Learning to Drive Near the King Fahd Airport in Dammam
Muhammad al-Dawud, Dar al-Hayat, April 8, 2011