Confessions of a Saudi Diva: FAQ’s: Women Driving in Saudi

In today’s post I thought of answering another recurring question that I get asked frequently. That question revolves around the rule of women driving in Saudi. It’s just not allowed. So once anyone finds out that I’m from there, and that I’m living in Dubai, the next burning question is most likely: “Do you drive here?” and if my answer is a simple no, then they want to know why I choose not to drive.

To answer this commonly asked question – as with most of the posts in this series – I would have to go back in time. Sometimes, this brings back bad memories of a life that I decided to leave behind. But at the same time, this can prove to be therapeutic. Maybe once I let all the negative emotions out of my system, I will find more peace with myself – and the rest of the Universe.

Let me state the reasons why I don’t want to drive in the UAE (or anywhere else for that matter):

To me, driving seems like a big responsibility. I mean it’s not just about renting or buying a car and then driving it around the city. There’s car registration, maintenance, parking dilemmas, and all the other elements that come with driving a car.

The reason that this may seem like an easy task for many of you, is that you were living in cities that require driving. So, you are already used to the idea of driving. While for someone who has lived in Saudi for most of her life, and who always had the privilege of a private driver or family member to take her around town, it’s a totally different story.

Of course, having a personal driver has its endless drawbacks. And is one of the things that brought great misery to me while I lived in Saudi. But I’m just trying to give you an idea of the kind of lifestyle that I was living, and why learning how to drive and then driving seems like a big task to me. Also, not something that I look forward to learning.

Basically, driving a car carries its own responsibilities, and I don’t feel like I’m ready to take these on and add them to my list of things to learn and adapt to. It’s simply not something that I want to do. Period.

I did take some driving lessons while I was studying my first University degree in Bahrain. However, the instructor wasn’t good. He only cared about making money by making me take as many lessons as I could. So, he wasn’t doing a great job in teaching. Unsurprisingly, I failed the first practical driving exam. And I wasn’t motivated enough to take another one or to re-take the lessons required to re-do the exam. I simply wasn’t interested. It wasn’t a top priority on my to-do list. In fact, I don’t think it was even there.

I think driving isn’t a very safe method of transportation. I mean, it’s scary when you think of all the road accidents that happen daily. Especially in the Gulf region, where not everyone adheres to safe driving rules and regulations. Just crossing the road as a pedestrian in this part of the world is dangerous! let alone driving a vehicle.

I’m a strong advocate of using public transportation. Yes, I know the Dubai metro isn’t the fastest metro system in the world. And it can take ages to get from one end of the city to the other. The Dubai tram is even 10 times worse. But, I still like to take the metro whenever possible. I like the idea of getting fit while walking to the station and inside its premises. Also, I love walking in the sunny weather – especially in cooler climates. I have a body type that requires careful attention, as I can gain weight easily if I let myself go. That’s why, walking is a great way to stay fit, healthy and in good shape.

Taking public transportation has always translated into a sense of freedom to me. It gives me immense joy to be able to just leave my place, walk for a few minutes in the beautiful sunshine to the nearest metro station. I feel alive, free, like a bird.

One of the best things about living in a city like London, is being able to walk everywhere! Sadly, we don’t have the exact same experience in Dubai. But I believe that we should make the most out of what we have. And try to use public transportation whenever and wherever possible.

Now, the most important reason to why I don’t want to drive. I actually wrote an opinion piece about women driving in Saudi when I was still taking my journalism course in University. You can read that article here. I will also summarize the point for your reference.

When I decided to move from Saudi, I didn’t move because I couldn’t drive a car or any other obvious reason. I moved for more complicated reasons. Some social, others personal, and some are cultural reasons. I must admit that I was privileged enough to have a private driver throughout my life, and that getting from point A to B wasn’t an issue at most times. That’s why, many of my Saudi readers might not agree with my views on the ban of Saudi women driving. As for them, driving is a priority. When they don’t have anyone to take their sick baby to the hospital, or to take their elderly mother to the emergency, or other urgent situations.

However, for me personally, the struggle was of a different type. It was more personal – related to family. It was social and cultural too. I suppose that I was lucky enough to have the basics that many people from my society might not have enjoyed. I had the personal drive, or my father to take me to places. And so for me, not being able to drive a car in Saudi was never a big issue. It was other things that bothered me. Other things that confined me and restricted my personal freedom and ability to grow and develop as a person. More on these issues in future posts.

To end this post about women driving in Saudi, I would like to ask you: Do you agree with my views? do you disagree? Are you a Saudi woman reading this and you have some thoughts or comments? I would love to hear from you!

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