Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers

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The first public demonstration came on November 6, 1990, when 47 women drove around central Riyadh for almost an hour until they were detained by the religious police.

A picture taken June 3, 2018 shows a Saudi woman, "Noura", taking part in a training session at the Bikers Skills Institute, a motorcycle driving school, on the outskirts of Riyadh.

"It may also take some time for enough driving schools that cater exclusively to women to be set up in Saudi Arabia, though when established they will create job opportunities for female driving instructors", says PwC. She also was the first woman to import a Ferrari into Saudi Arabia and has taken her 458 Spider to tracks around the country for workshops and track days.

A report by the Gulf Research Centre said that lifting the driving ban on women "may help them overcome some of the difficulties they face in accessing job opportunities".

Al-Ajaji had a USA driver's license before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked.

Starting at midnight local time, women will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia when a controversial ban comes to an end.

Vehicle companies also see opportunity in this country of 20 million people, half of them female.

Some see the end of the ban as a message from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that women will play a larger role in the conservative country's future. They faced arrest for defying the ban as women in other Muslim countries drove freely.

"I had to call my family in Riyadh to ask them if this was true", she said. "I'm just so happy", she told Reuters as she drove.

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"It is a very important step and essential for women's free mobility", Hana al-Khamri, author of the forthcoming book "Female Journalists in Gender Apartheid Saudi Arabia", said.

In the lead up to the lifting of the driving ban, Saudi Arabia arrested several women's driving activists, and accused them of undermining security.

She drives in silence for a few minutes, glancing up at the moon, then adds: "I never in my life imagined I would be driving here".

Although women can now drive in Saudi Arabia and don't need male permission to obtain a license, most will still need the support of a father or husband to drive. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses.

They could detain groups of unmarried men and women for simply standing around or sitting together.

Other women already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves.

"Worst of all will be if these small-scale reforms, and the silencing of feminists, slow the momentum for pushing the Saudi regime into making more meaningful change", she wrote in a USA newspaper.

Saudi activist and author Manal al-Sharif, who was jailed in Saudi Arabia 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself driving a auto, had planned to visit the country from Australia, where she now lives.