Oh there are so many things I was going to make my first return to the blogosphere post about but the topics all pale in comparison to the announcement late September that, as from June 2018, any Saudi women who want to will be able to receive a driving license. So Saudi women can drive. How exciting. Get ready folks, the driving in Saudi Arabia is about to improve significantly!
Of course before women get behind the wheel a few issues need to be sorted out first. The traffic regulations will need to be updated to allow for the inclusion of females as legal drivers. A few new traffic rules might need to be added to the current list, possibly around men harassing females. And of course women who haven’t gone overseas and obtained their licenses will need to be taught how to drive. So driving schools will be in big demand. Watch for a few of those popping up about the place. And naturally those establishments have to find women who can teach driving. So you ladies looking for work – keep your eyes peeled for those job offers.
Here’s hoping the new driving schools are ones of excellence and integrity. In other words, they don’t sell licenses to people who fail the test, which is how many men in this country have managed to get their licenses. As a female back seat passenger I can pick those types easily – they drive like shyte!
Yes, corruption has been rampant in the driver licensing establishments for decades. Part of the license test involves answering driving questions on a computer. Tell me, how many current foreign drivers, many of whom hail from the back blocks of Pakistan and Bangladesh, do you think are literate enough to read questions written in their own language much less questions in English or Arabic? And how many of those do you think have been bought up knowing how to use a computer? The short answer is, not many. A mobile phone they might be competent on, an HP desktop, less so. Paying the guy in the room who is supposed to be supervising the test to complete said test for them is so much easier. The applicant gets a drivers licence and the Supervising Bloke gets extra income. No wonder the scam was so popular….it was a win – win. Unless you are one of the women who ends up as a passenger in one of their cars. For female independence and child safety it has definitely been a frustrating loss.
A number of the foreign drivers that have been entrusted with transporting wives and children have also, in many cases, only just learned how to drive. Many has been the time my Saudi friends have said they have just hired a new driver but he can’t start yet because he’s taking driving lessons! Yep, in the back blocks from whence the new driver hails there is often only one vehicle shared among many (usually a ute because it can be used to cart useful things like animals and large amounts of people. It’s true. Ask Noor) and the newly licensed fraudster was never taught how to drive it. Not properly and not on busy city streets. Yet soon after he arrives in Riyadh he gets put in charge of a large and powerful 4WD with demanding female passengers talking in a language most of the drivers don’t understand. Talk about stressful!
So for everyone here who thinks the roads here are crazy because people don’t know the rules. You’re right. They don’t.
And when you curse at the blighter who just pulled out in front of you while staring straight at you, saying people here don’t know how to drive. You’re right again. They don’t.
Saudi drivers, as in people males who hail from Saudi, we have found are actually quite good drivers. Sure many of them might drive a bit fast while gas bagging on their phones or watching videos hanging from their rear vision mirrors – (yes folks, we have seen that!) – and they like to push the rules to the limit, or simply make them up to suit themselves, but when you get down to it, they know how to drive. Hardly surprising given many of these blokes have probably been behind the wheel since they were toddlers. (And yes, we often see that too). The chaotic mess on busy Riyadh streets, we have noticed, is often caused by the driving fraternity who, as mentioned above, actually don’t know that much about driving. Soon their days may be numbered. Because Saudi women can now drive. Well, as from June next year.
If I’m being honest, the potential impending demise of current crap drivers doesn’t bother me that much. Nope. The sooner terrible drivers are taken off the roads in this country and replaced with female drivers, the better.
Quite a few Saudi households will notice the extra storage space in their homes come next June as their current driver is shown the sponsorhip door. At least I hope they are shown the sponsorship door all the way to the airport and aren’t just left hanging around. There is an excess of unnecessary male types already just hanging about in this country. I know. I walk past them frequently as they hang out on footpaths in front of small, not very busy shops.
Not every family will axe their driver just because women will be legally permitted to drive. There will be a bunch of women who are perfectly happy being driven like Miss Daisy thank you. And I can understand why. As much as I have said I will drive here if the historic event ever happens, there are some reasons and occasions why I will still use my trusted driver/taxi man, Mr Noor.
First off, we don’t own a car. We’d have to buy a vehicle and a decent one doesn’t come cheap. If the merits of carving out some of the budget to purchase a vehicle are under discussion at our place after this breaking news, I presume it is also a topic of conversation in other homes.
And second, the parking situation in this city needs to improve big time.
In Riyadh there are surprisingly few public multi-level carparks.
Read – Zero. No, wait. I saw one at a hospital the other day. But that’s a private hospital. Ok, back to zero!
Perhaps a few car parks will pop up now, else where are these women so keen to drive themselves to work going to park? (I remember telling a Saudi friend a number of years ago he should look at investing in land specifically for multi-level carparks. He didn’t take me seriously. He probably should have).
Once Saudi women start driving themselves around parking spaces around work places and mall entrances will be at more of premium than they already are.
Not all work places have sufficient, if any, car parking space for the additional vehicles about to hit the streets as they transport women too and from work. A number of Saudi ladies have already indicated they are going to buy new cars specifically so they can drive themselves to the workplace. Good on them I say. Unfortunately they will no longer have the employed driver to deal with the car. At the moment he, after dropping his female employer off at her destination, used to be able take the car home, or for a burn out, so it wasn’t really necessary to have parking space available while women were doing whatever it is women do.
How many women do you think will want to drive to town, park a fair distance away from the entrance to their workplace because of the parking jam in the limited parking spaces in front of the office, then have to walk in the hot Saudi air wrapped in a heat attracting garment just to go to work? Not many would be my guess. They, like me, have become accustomed to being dropped at, or very near, the destination door. In the midst of a long hot Saudi summer I imagine that is what a number of women will still prefer and I don’t blame them.
I’ve heard a rumour that malls and supermarkets may invest in Car Valets. Perhaps that might work however, one, they would have to be free or very cheap else it is an extra cost. And two, they still have to find somewhere to park the car in an already crowded car park.
There are also loads of families and young couples who live in apartment blocks with limited, if any, dedicated parking downstairs and next to zero parking outside. Imagine having two cars to find a space for in the evenings. Bitch fight on the bitumen! Parking rules, similar to parking permits in the UK, or parking meters like in every other major city may be on the cards soon. Watch for those popping up.
One of the other concerns once Saudi women can drive is the unfortunate yet very valid issue of being harassed by men. Some extra calls at Friday prayers on expected decent male behavior might be necessary prior to, and even after, the June 2018 date. It might be helpful if men in this region can actually figure out what ‘harassment’ is in female terms. Off the top of my head here’s a few things we’d like the men here not to do because it’s disconcerting for women which, in my book, makes it harrassment:
– Stare with huge frikken saucer sized eyes without blinking!
– Stare continuously like their head is on a frikken swivel as their eyes follow a woman’s every move.
– Swing their hands anywhere near their gonads while their head is swiveling and eyes are staring.
Regardless of how women driving goes down, one thing is for sure. The driving habits on Saudi roads are about to improve remarkably once women get behind the wheel. It has been proven so many times that women are, without doubt, much safer drivers than men. There is no reason why, eventually, with good scam free driving instruction, that will not be the case here. I’m looking forward to seeing that!