Breaking the Ban and Burning Rubber in Saudi Arabia
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because while things always change, it’s nicer when they change for the better.
By Sahar Hasan Nasif
The lifting of the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia was music to my ears. It is something I had dreamed about for years but never thought would happen in my lifetime. For years, we had dreamed of driving in Saudi Arabia. We had seen women in other countries enjoy the freedom that comes from being able to drive, and we wanted that for ourselves, at home.
Saudi women travel, and we see that driving is a great thing for women all over the world. We see how it helps the economy, how it drives the will to explore and better ourselves and how that sense of adventure is sparked in people when they get to take real control of their destinies. So many Saudi women learned to drive overseas, and we knew what we were missing when we were at home.
Being able to drive goes beyond simply handing over the keys; it broadens your perspective and horizons. The moment I heard the decree lifting the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia is something I will always remember. I was sitting on the sofa, playing with my phone, when my son called and congratulated me.
“What for?” I asked, and he told me that women would be allowed to drive. I thought he was messing around — but his wife said it was true, and I had to turn on the news to see for myself. I started jumping up and down and going crazy, clapping. I really didn’t know what I was doing — it just meant so much to me after so many years of hoping and waiting.
The sight of a woman driving a muscle car in Jeddah is still a novelty for many drivers here, so I get a lot of people staring in disbelief.
I had a feeling something would happen — but you never really know. I had been in Florida with my daughter just before the decree was announced, and everywhere I went I saw Mustangs. I’ve been a huge fan of the Mustang ever since I rented a convertible in California in 2000, and I’ve wanted one ever since. I just loved the sound, the power — it was just awesome, and I fell in love with them then.
I guess we look for signs in life, things that trigger our hopes and back up our intuition — and I felt that seeing Mustangs on every street and car park in Florida was a sign that we would get the right to drive, and that I would finally get to own my own Mustang. Just a few days later, the first part of that came true — and I really had no idea how the next part would unfold, because with the announcement of the decree came a lot of media interest.
The BBC got in touch, and I was still really excited about the news, and I remember being asked if I was going to buy a car.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m going to buy my dream car, a convertible Mustang — and it’s going to be black and yellow.” I really had no idea just how important those words would become. The BBC tweeted my comment, Ford in the Middle East saw it and the company wanted to get in touch. What for? To give me my dream car. Again, I couldn’t believe it and didn’t really want to until I had spoken with someone directly to make sure it was true. It was.
You know, it was important to me that my dream car be a convertible, and that it be yellow and black. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Jeddah’s football team, Al-Ittihad, and their colors are yellow and black. A lot of my dresses, my abayas, everything, is yellow and black — so it’s not hard to see why those colors are important to me. I was so happy that they understood that, and that it wouldn’t really be my dream car if it came in any other colors.
And now that it’s in my driveway? I’m beyond happy. I look at it every day and can’t believe it’s mine. The roar of the engine, the power, the color — it’s just perfect. I love every minute that I’m behind the wheel. I’m never going to sell it. It’s already become an important part of my life, and my family loves it too, especially my grandchildren, who take every opportunity they can to take a ride with me.
The sight of a woman driving a muscle car in Jeddah is still a novelty for many drivers here, so I get a lot of people staring in disbelief. I find it funny, but it’s great to be part of such a change in the country. Just a year ago this seemed like a distant dream, but it’s now a reality, and I can’t help but feel that women now face a brighter future in Saudi Arabia.
I’m now in my 60s, and I’m a retired university professor, so this isn’t as important for my generation as it is for those that follow: my children, my grandchildren and the future generations of women who will grow up under different circumstances. I might be wrong, but it seems like this is the best thing that has ever happened to this country — and with Vision 2030, there is still more to come in what could easily now be the new Saudi Arabia.
- Sahar Hasan Nasif, OZY Author Contact Sahar Hasan Nasif