Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

Cinemas were reopened last month after almost 40 years.

The couple from Pakistan, who have two boys, has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 17 years.

The ride-hailing app Careem has pledged to have 20,000 female drivers operating in Saudi Arabia by 2020.

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines - and hit the road to a bright new future. "It is one of my rights and I will keep it in my purse", said 60 year-old Lulwa al-Fireiji, who attended a government-sponsored event encouraging women to drive.

About six million women - or 65 percent of the female driving-age population - are expected to apply for a licence now that the ban is lifted, according to the London-based consulting firm Facts Global Energy. It also places women at the center of a tug-of-war between those agitating for more openings and a religious majority that remains wary of changes that could be influenced by the West.

Analyst Hana al-Khamri wrote on the Al Jazeera website on Sunday that Riyadh "has rather pragmatic reasons to allow women to drive".

But at least 10 of the most outspoken supporters of women's rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only the king and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

As the country prepares for the ban to come to an end, they seem to be paying attention to important details. She's the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, and serves as the Saudi Arabian representative at Women in Motorsport Commission for FIA.

To celebrate this joyous occasion, woman racer Aseel Al Hamad laps a race track in Saudi Arabia in an F-Type.

The move is expected to boost women's employment, and according to a Bloomberg estimate, add $90 billion to economic output by 2030.

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Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

Without the driving privileges, and dependent on men, "I felt heavy, tied back", she said. Some insurance companies such as CIC and Jubilee have products aimed at women vehicle owners while some employers prefer hiring women as drivers.

A handful of female driving schools have cropped up in several cities, training women to drive cars as well as Harley Davidson motorbikes - scenes unimaginable even a year ago.

"A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand", Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting.

Now she can driver herself to work - or anywhere she wants to go.

Society has been demanding such a change for years, "as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men".

Hala Kudwah, Middle East consulting partner and financial services leader at PwC in Saudi Arabia, says it will "alter spending patterns in the kingdom through increased family income and savings in transportation". We're going to drive her around, me and my sisters.

Though Mr Gasnier doesn't expect women to rush out and buy a auto straight away.

Young women were spotted present in various exhibits where traffic officials instructed them on handlings of a vehicle.

Any uplift from new women drivers will be "quite gradual", he says.

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