Women Can Drive in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world where women were not allowed to drive — but starting tomorrow, Sunday, June 24, 2018, that all changes in a country which has been attempting to reinvent itself and improve its image to become more friendly to tourism and improve its economy.

Women Can Drive in Saudi Arabia

The supreme order was first issued on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, according to this article from the official Saudi Press Agency: “We refer to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing it to do so, taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them.”

The order — which was commended by organizations and foreign governments around the world — continues with “We also refer to the view of the majority of the members of the senior scholars on the driving of women of vehicles that the legitimacy of this is in terms of origin, is permissibility that the views of the reservation is focused on considerations related to blocking the possible pretexts that do not reach the certainty and the predominance of the thought do not see impediment to allow it to drive vehicles, in the light of finding guarantees of legitimacy and order necessary to avoid those pretexts, even if they were within the scope of doubtful possibility.”

This change does not only apply to women who reside in Saudi Arabia, as foreign women visiting Saudi Arabia will also be able to use their recognized licenses for up to a maximum of one year as long as they remain valid.

Another Barrier to Tourism in Saudi Arabia Removed

Women driving in Saudi Arabia represents another barrier to tourism which will have been removed.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning to issue visas to conventional visitors in 2018 in order to increase its tourism industry to 30 million visitors per year by 2030 — as well as increase annual spending by tourists to $47 billion by 2020 — while simultaneously reducing its reliance on the oil industry, as I reported in this article in November of 2017.

That Saudi Arabia wants to increase tourism is of no surprise, as many ambitious projects have been announced, planned, or already under way — including a new “mega city”; a global tourism destination which will supposedly be larger in area than the country of Belgium; and a theme amusement park to be opened by Six Flags. As I first wrote in this article pertaining to my review of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah is expected to surpass Burj Khalifa as the tallest building in the world prior to its expected completion in 2018 and grand opening in 2019.

Summary

Although the concept of women driving in Saudi Arabia has been lauded almost universally, this does not mean that the rights of women in general will have improved overall — I am not going to go into details; but you are welcome to post your opinions in the Comments section below — but it is a start.

I have yet to visit Saudi Arabia and would consider traveling there some day — but even with the issuance of tourist visas by Saudi Arabia, the chances of me being permitted to visit Makkah will most likely still be unlikely.

The car in the photograph at the top of this article was rented in Manama in Bahrain, where women are permitted to drive — but fewer than 50 kilometers away via a causeway across the Gulf of Bahrain, women would not have been permitted to continue on into Saudi Arabia. That changes as of Sunday, June 24, 2018. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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