Thursday, September 17, 2009

Women Can't Drive Here, But Children Can!

I drove cars legally in the United States for 40 years before moving to Saudi Arabia. I got an "A" in my Driver's Ed class in high school (shout out to Coach Sharp!) and I have always passed my driver's tests on the first try. I have an excellent driving record. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however, bans women from driving, although out in the sparsely populated areas, women are known to drive there. To my knowledge, it is the only country in the world where it is illegal for women to drive. The most common excuse given for why women are not allowed to drive here is that it's for their own safety and protection. Now this excuse of safety doesn't really refer to the dangers of having or causing accidents. What it actually refers to is the potential for women to have more freedom and to not be under the direct control of a man. The thinking is that a woman driver would have more of a chance to hook up with someone of the opposite sex if she wanted to, which is a big no-no in this country. The funny thing is that I have spoken to many Saudi women who drive outside this country, and they have all managed to avoid becoming sluts - which is what some Saudi men think of all women drivers elsewhere in the world. You can read a previous post I wrote about this subject not long ago.

Granted, the driving conditions here in Jeddah are horrendous. Just imagine all that testosterone gunning those engines in a land where only men are allowed behind the wheel! Traffic laws seem to be non-existent here, and if there ARE traffic laws, nobody follows them and no one visibly enforces them either.

But what really galls me is the fact that I - a responsible female driver with a proven track record of safety and skill and years of experience - am not allowed to drive here in Saudi Arabia, yet frequently I have seen children - specifically young boys - driving who are definitely not old enough to have a driver's license. I have tried to find out the legal driving age requirement here in Saudi Arabia, but that information is as elusive as the traffic laws. I've seen various accounts that range from 17 up to 25, and just about every age in between. All I do know is that many of the drivers I have seen here are nowhere close to approaching their 17th birthday, let alone 25.

One day I was crossing the street in a quiet residential section of town, and I was almost run over by a car driven by a boy who looked as though he couldn't have been a day over 10! These young boys drive, stretching and craning their necks in an effort to see over the steering wheel. Many of them have to sit on pillows. I don't know how they can possibly reach the gas pedal, or more importantly, the brake pedal! This is not something I see every day because I am not out and about every day, but it happens with enough frequency that I am not shocked any more when I see it - just angered that I am not allowed to drive here, yet these spoiled little brats CAN. As in many countries of the world, most boys here are raised to believe that they are superior to their sisters and are given special privileges just because they were born with a little extra appendage that girls don't have.

Even though the photos accompanying this post are of poor quality, hopefully you can see that there is a child - I'm guessing he's about eight years old - driving this big SUV on the busy streets of Jeddah AT NIGHT, during Ramadan, when traffic is especially heavy.

In the front passenger seat is a bearded grown man, probably his father, visible in the photo below.

It's hard to make out, but there are two other children in the back seat. None of the vehicle's occupants are wearing their seatbelts, of course. Most Saudis do not wear seatbelts as a rule, nor do they impress upon their children the importance of doing so.

I really resent the fact that I am not permitted to drive here in Saudi Arabia while young boys, who aren't even into double digits in age, can and do, without penalty or objection. I am NOT one of the many fortunate women here in this country who is provided with her own driver and vehicle. Consequently I am stuck at home much of the time with not much to do. My life has been reduced to accepting invitations only when my husband agrees to drive me, which he HATES to do, or when I'm lucky enough to be invited by one of my friends who can send her driver for me. My mobility here is severely restricted, and it is something I cannot get used to. To go from having my own car and the ability to drive where and when I wanted all my life to a country where I cannot is disheartening. Women who are caught driving in Saudi Arabia are usually hauled down to the police station, arrested, and can only be released to their male guardian (see corroborating news article).

To me this whole system makes no sense. Not allowing women to drive causes many hardships on a family, financial burdens if the family has to hire a driver, added stress on the man of the family to drive the women around, inconveniences for everyone, makes it difficult for women to get to and from work (so most women do not work here), and more. Women here in Saudi Arabia face many challenges and barriers created by the men which make it difficult for the women with desires for a more meaningful life to become more valued contributing members of this society. When men here say women cannot drive for their own protection, yet they turn around and permit little boys to get behind the wheel in busy traffic on the streets of Jeddah, putting everyone in their paths in harms way, there is no other word for it than "preposterous." The intended purpose behind not allowing women to drive here is totally flawed and unreasonable. It all boils down to a control issue, aimed at treating women like children and at keeping women at home.

For another related post about the problems created when women must hire drivers, please read a recent blog post over at Sand Gets in My Eyes.


  1. OMG Susie... that's my little cousin...

    Just kidding, it is a big big big problem... and in rural areas even worse... where the local police would probably be his cousin that did the same thing when he was a kid.

    Big not because they do it, but because they are encouraged by their parent or parents.

    Some even take the car when the parents are busy with something or the other.

    Anyhow, good captures... did u get a newer camera? this seems to take better night shots

  2.'s hard to stop me when I get started on this subject. Lets see...I'm pretty sure officially the age to drive is 18-also keep in mind that's 18 on the Arabic calender. Yet some people get "special" licenses at a younger age. Or they used to. Their father's sign off on it and who knows what else.

    The bearded man might be the driver. Lots of kids wait till away from the house and ask the driver to move over. From a very young age these boys have been allowed to command the driver, and so they tell them to let them drive. When you have a driver it is another thing to pay attention to.

    Sometimes these young boys learn to drive so they can take their mothers around. As you well know-not everyone has a driver.

    I'm amazed you can manage without a driver. When people ask me if they should move here one of the issues I bring up is having a driver. I would never move here without one- and the right to go where and when I want. Even then some are not very good- and even when you have a good one (as I am fortunate to have right now) it still means everywhere you go- you go with a strange man and he knows all your business (not that mine is so interesting :)) but I'm sure you get my point.

    I see these kids driving and it is just insulting.

  3. Hi Precognitive - Actually I'm hoping someone recognizes him and they will at least be embarassed! But that's just wishful thinking on my part. They'd probably think it's cool that their photo is on the internet!
    It's the same camera I've had for the past year or so. We were going slower than usual because traffic was so heavy, and I think that helped!

  4. Hi Sandy - Not being able to drive and not having a driver is my biggest obstacle here in my life. My husband is supposed to be working on getting us one to share with his brother's family, but like everything here, it's taking time!
    So that bearded man could be the family's driver? No wonder he was not happy about me snapping all those photos. The kid certainly didn't mind though!

  5. You're right, bottom line it's all about control. So what happens if a visiting tourist women drives?

  6. I joke about how I wouldn't mind living there because it'd give us an excuse for a driver (I hate driving with a passion), but I have no idea how I'd really feel in that situation. Sorry its so rough on you though.

    Have to shake my head at the kids driving thing, but like someone said it could be explained several diff ways. I know of kids getting special permissions here... or worse if there's an emergency (and like you pointed out mama can't drive). Is still sad though.

  7. I joke about how I wouldn't mind living there because it'd give us an excuse for a driver (I hate driving with a passion), but I have no idea how I'd really feel in that situation. Sorry its so rough on you though.

    Have to shake my head at the kids driving thing, but like someone said it could be explained several diff ways. I know of kids getting special permissions here... or worse if there's an emergency (and like you pointed out mama can't drive). Is still sad though.

  8. No public transportation? I'm thinking no taxis because that would be a strange man driving you alone but no buses? How do you get shopping done?

  9. Hi Gaelyn - Well, during the Gulf War when the US had lots of American troops here, women in the military drove here. I'm sure the locals didn't like it much. If a woman comes here, she is expected to follow the rules. There is really no tourism here to speak of - visitors are mainly comprised of religious pilgrims and most are bussed around.

    Hi MamaK - I don't think the many little boys I have seen driving here have special permission to drive - they are just too young and too small. If the Saudi government is granting special permission for them to drive, there is something very wrong. I did read about an emergency situation a year ago or so where a young woman drove her father to the hospital (he was having a heart attack or something) and she was actually hailed as a hero.

    Hi Melissa - Women are not allowed on public buses here - mostly foreign male workers ride them. Women who don't have their own drivers are forced into a situation of having to take taxis, which are really not safe when a woman is alone. As far as shopping, I either go with my husband or he does it. If he's gone and I need something, I have to wait for him or call him to get it for me, if I can reach him. It's a real pain.

  10. I just recently heard from a friend that the Saudi government has announced that women can legally drive now. I have been so busy with work and study I haven't looked up any news on anything. Even if it's true, not sure how well it will be enforced.....the religious police, ignorant thugs they are, will be going berserk soon enough.

    Some Saudis I know are always making fun and talking about how "backwards" Oman is when I mentioned I visited there....a country where I had the chance to drive and even saw village women driving in the mountains in trucks going from one village to another by themselves or with other women....and just thinking that across the border women aren't allowed....who's really backwards? It just annoys THE HELL OUT OF ME to no end when Saudi MALES try to justify it with crap like "The roads are too'll take time" or "too many conservative types would cause trouble if we let women drive" etc. etc. blah blah.....

  11. Hi EasternRef - There has been talk about it for a long time now, but honestly I doubt that it will happen any time soon. I haven't heard anyone here talk about Oman in a negative way. I guess people have differing opinions about what the term "backwards" means!!!

  12. Susie--I'm sorry that this situation is such a burden for you, and that little boys are inadvertently adding insult to injury. It must impact your marriage to have you, the happy driver, suddenly reliant in this way on your husband, the reluctant chauffeur.

    As someone who doesn't really enjoy driving, and has lived happily a variety of places without a car, I am labouring under the delusion that this aspect of life in Saudi would bother me less than it bothers some other women. I say delusion, because I am sure the paucity of reasonable alternatives, ie restricted public transit, walking a climate challenge, and the cost of a driver unless part of the package, would have a big impact.

    I am curious as to what you and other commentators found to be different, if anything, between what your expectation of not driving in Saudi was, and living it has been.

    It would be interesting too to have the perspective of the husbands who find that their wives are suddenly so dependent on them for rides, shopping, socializing etc.

    Thanks for a new twist on this topic, and sorry you have had to experience it.

  13. Hi Chiara - I had no idea how horrendous the driving situation was here before coming. I also had no idea how much my husband would hate driving here because he certainly wasn't like that when we lived in Arizona and Florida. I have to always remind him that HE's the one who wanted to move to the ONLY place in the world where I can't drive myself so he's just going to have to suck it up!

  14. Another great post Susie!! Its about control pure and simple, where in Islam does it say a woman cannot drive? It doesn't it is a cultural law designed to keep women in their place. What gets me is these guys always go on how virtuous their wives are, if they truly thought their women were so pure and chaste and western women were all lose and free then why the extreme paranoia?
    because they A. Don't trust their own women and B. Its easier for them to cheat if women are hidden away at home. I'm sorry I sound so negative, it is all I have seen here in my country for the last 15 years and I am grossly disappointed.

  15. I don't know how you do it without resentment. Having been an independent woman 95% of your adult life, I would think these types of "restrict the woman" customs would really get to you. It's evidently drving your husband nuts too. I love your response to him. Does he ever question the move back?

  16. This is absolutely infuriating indeed, Susie. It makes me so mad that women are treated like second-class citizens in many countries of the world. I must say that I really admire your courage. As much as I completely adore my husband, I would never be strong enough to make all the sacrifices that you are making for him.

  17. i just dont understand how the avaerage saudi person can feel safe on the raod with children driving.
    on our 4th of july holiday we drove to Nevada...when we went through the mountains..i made my husband get in the passenger seat because i've been driving longer than him, and wanted to make sure that we arrived at our desitination safe.
    i cant imagine sitting passenger to my 14 year old son...

    a car can easily be a weapon..and the road is dangerous.
    i happen to think women are very good drivers...and my husband agrees so as well :)

  18. Don't worry Susie ,soon your son will be old enough to drive you around.

  19. I'm wondering what would happen if YOU (or another foreign woman) would drive in Saudi? You said that " Women who are caught driving in Saudi Arabia are usually hauled down to the police station, arrested, and can only be released to their male guardian " but since foreing women doesn't have a male guardian (or they have it?) what would be the consequences for a foreign woman? will be expelled from Saudi or what?

  20. hi miss susie thats why vehicular accident is a common scenario here in saudi arabia almost a normal thing....

  21. Susie of Arabia,
    I just wanted to correct one thing in your ending sentence where you wrote: "aimed at treating women like children". If this was true, then women would be able to drive.
    Love you,
    Gary of Greenwood

  22. Hi Neo-Conduit! I've actually asked my husband if all of this extra "protection" afforded women in this country is because they don't trust the women, and of course his reply is that it's because they don't trust the men. They think women here are unable to handle themselves (which is far from the truth!) and that men have nothing but sex on their minds (no doubt about it!). You are right about the cheating though - they keep the wives saddled at home with all these kids and then it frees up the husband to go out and cheat - that happens everywhere I guess.

    Hi AmyK - My husband does not question the move back as far as he is concerned - it was the right decision for him. But he does question it for me and my son because he knows how difficult the adjustment is and how unwilling we are to accept things the way they are, like most people do here. In my eyes, many things need to change and be fixed around here. I really try to maintain a positive outlook but it gets more difficult all the time...

    Hi Anon - Thanks for your comment. I guess I'm in it for the long haul since we've been together for more than 30 yrs. My husband does try to accomodate us as much as he can, but there are some things he has no control over and other things he is very stubborn about...

    Hi Angie - Those mountain roads can be treacherous! I'lived in Arizona many years and some of those mountain roads are really scary. Glad your husband sees the value of women drivers - I know many men don't!

    Hi Zahra - I'm so scared to have my son drive around here. The traffic and drivers are like no other place I've ever seen on earth - and it's because there are only men drivers. I want to have him learn to drive in the states, not here.

    Hi CountryGirl - If I am caught driving, not only could I be expelled from the country, but my husband (as my guardian) would also likely get into trouble for not being able to control his woman...

    Hi MightyDacz - Yes, and I really think that allowing women to drive would make the streets here safer. It would get rid of many of the foriegn drivers and would hopefully make Saudi drivers more considerate since women would be on the road.

    Hi Gary - When I wrote that, I thought about that and wondered if someone would pick up on it. Leave it to you, Gary of Greenwood!

  23. Dear Susie, your take on Saudi Arabia would be quite different if you had a daughter or two. Not being able to teach them to drive would hurt you more than the fact that you do not drive yourself.
    And what about the hypocrisy of a woman with a male driver? Do you know what things could happen on the way to the mall??? Unthinkable sins!

    This is brainwashing, pure and simple. This is because men want to control the women, and why? Because they are afraid of us, that's all. And rightly so. We are powerful and smart beings. What SA does to women is ungodly and humiliating.


  24. Hi Anon/Anna -
    One of the reasons I agreed to come to SA in the first place hinged on the fact that I only had a son. My daughter is grown and married and lives in the US. If I had younger daughters, I would not have agreed to come here. Just because men are physically stronger does not mean they are any smarter or hjave all the answers - they have proven throughout history that they do not. Thanks for commenting.

  25. Modern cars, if maintained correctly, are quite reliable. So, there is little reason to worry that 'the little lady' might be stranded on the side of the road. Even if stranded cell phones are readily available (Many years ago, I bought my first cell phone the day after my car broke down and I had to walk 1 mile for an old fashioned pay phone).

    Why are Saudi men so worried about what would happen if women were behind the wheel? Are they saying that men are all brutes? If so, why is it the women who are kept in a cage. Isn't it the brutes who should be kept in cages.

    Islam is central to Saudi society, doesn't it command that men and women act modestly? Shouldn't that modesty guarantee that women are safe in their own cars? If not, what is that value of all that religion.

  26. These restrictive conditions exist not because the men want them, although they do, but because the women cooperate with them, and foster them.

  27. Susie--thanks for your response. Your husband's reaction to driving in Saudi is one of those perfect examples of "the best laid plans". The 2 of you had maybe thought him driving "for 2" wouldn't be such a problem as it turned out to be. I respect that you want to keep your marriage of 30 years but I hope the 3 of you have a 3-5 year plan that makes life easier and more "right" for all.

    I assume Adam will be going to university in a few years, and somehow I doubt he will be staying in Saudi but rather heading Stateside. And then what happens to your lifestyle in Saudi?
    Any further thoughts about work or splitting your year in 2 countries on a regular basis?

    I do think that at some point for the health of the family the disequilibrium between how right this feels for Adnan and how wrong it feels for yourself and Captain Kabob will have to be re-equilibrated.

  28. CountryGirl--Ho una domanda per lei. Si prego di contattarmi: chiaraazlinquestion AT
    Grazie dalle Dolomiti alle Alpi.

  29. Injustice is alive and well where you live... I'm sorry to say!

  30. You must worship your husband. I have no words my friend.

  31. Hi Jerry - Everyone here has cell phones, so you're right, the issue of the car breaking down and being stranded is really moot. Your last paragraph says it all - butr unfortunately men are not held responsible for their actions toward women in this society, so it is the women who are punished and must suffer.

    Hi Helene - A lot of women here have become apathetic and feel powerless against the system. It will take a lot of brave women to create change here.

    Hi Chiara - I honestly don't know what the future holds - just taking it day by day...

    Hi Pam - Sad, isn't it?

  32. Crazy rules and restrictions just to keep women from actually doing anything interesting, must be hard for you having to live under such conditions. I wonder what would happen if you did drive, would you be arrested or mobbed by angry men? However I don't suggest you try to find out.

  33. Well, you could throw on a thoub and guttra and practice your "Saudi Slide". When you got good at it go out again, with a thoub and guttra, on a really bad PMS day and take out all your aggression and frustration on the'll fit right in with all the other idiots out there! :) Sorry Susie, couldn't resist. Women not being able to drive is one of the most frustrating things I see in Saudia. What makes it worse are all the lame excuses...........the majority having nothing to do with Islam. Insha Allah, there will be change.

  34. Hello Susie,

    If I lived in KSA, I would be infuriated each time I saw a young boy behind the wheel and tempted to make rude gestures! It sounds like the authorities don't have much regard for public safety by allowing boys to drive and prohibiting perfectly capable women.

    I remember reading that women who drove in protest against the ban on women driving all carried international drivers licenses and wore the obligatory hijab. Even despite their precautions, it still caused a backlash from the authorities.

    It seems crazy to me as an outsider that women should face such a bar, especially when it is clear that young children are in no way capable of driving safely. Apparently children can't judge how fast cars are traveling when they are pedestrians, let alone when they're in charge of a dangerous vehicle.

    The ban also sounds quite unjust as those with less resources would be unable to secure a driver, making it very difficult for women to be able to do any paid work. Do families in KSA struggle on one income?

    It sounds like there's no functioning public transport system in KSA. The very least the government there could do with some of the oil money is to provide public transport if they ban half the adult population from driving.

    My sympathies to you and all frustrated women drivers in KSA! Wishing you well from Australia!


  35. Susie, This is indeed terrible - I guess it will take a lot of women to mobilise their husbands to join them in their fight against this controlling system. I doubt even a lot of women by themselves can do anything in such a system.

  36. Just to let you know I linked to you. Come visit a moment and see why.

  37. Hi Susie, my only comment in Bahasa Indonesia: Gila benerrrr!

  38. I'm wondering what the pucblic transportation is like out there? If there is any?

  39. I can't even imagine, Susie. When I gave up my creaky old car to move for school (I didn't trust it on the freeways), I nearly went crazy with how restricted I felt, mobility-wise. This is with the "luxury" of public transit. I think you deserve a huge kudos for your patience in this matter...I wouldn't have been able to last.

  40. I have really enjoyed your stories Susie. Thank you for sharing.

  41. Susie, driving here in Bahrain is generally appalling, but made much worse each weekend when young Saudis stream across the causeway in search of some action. I am not a nervous driver, but these guys really terrify me. They drive arrogantly and dangerously with no respect for road rules or safety. Presumably there is no driving test in Saudi?? Must put a post about this on my blog too.
    Having said that, at least I can drive. I can't imagine how difficult it must be not to be able to and how trapped you must sometimes feel. Still, at least you have some escape in the blog, which is excellent. Keep it up. Kate

  42. Prior to coming to live in Saudi Arabia with my husband I educated myself as well as received orientation as to the customs and culture of the people so was quite aware that the Kingdom of SA is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Yes, it is an inconvenience but we must remember we are visitors in this country and whereas we may not agree with their ways we need to respect the fact that it is just the way it is and until the women of SA learn to stand up for themselves then it will be a slow road for them before they obtain equal rights if ever.
    I experience the same frustrations and lack of mobility but find it much easier to cope by accepting their customs. We would not appreciate them pushing their culture on us in the States.
    I have found that many western women don't last here too long when they oppose and can't handle the culture and it is probably best that they return to the States.

  43. Hi Susie - I too, enjoy reading your stories and getting a glimpse into a part of the world that is so mysterious for so many reasons. I cannot fathom ever loving someone so much that I would agree to live in a society that is so backward. You sound like such a strong woman, and we both grew up in the age of women realizing their inner strength and fighting for their rights. I will continue to read your posts and be ever greatful that I live in the states where women are valued and have the same opportunities as men and hope that one day that will be the case everywhere. I also hope that this experience living in KSA is not lost on your son - I hope his eyes are fully open to the inequities that persist for everyone in the name of religion and I hope he becomes a more tolerant man than his father.

    Remember this from the 1970? -- "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" - Irina Dunn.

  44. Dear Susie,

    Do you ever worry that your future grandaughters may one day be born as Saudi citizens subject to Saudi laws? Does it not give you pause?

  45. I disagree with the above post. While it is true, no one wants their another's culture pushed on them- when a culture violates a persons human rights- I think they have the right to complain even if it is not their country.

    In addition many of us foreigners are not visiters but residents and members of Saudi families and parents of Saudi children. We have every right and even a duty in our role as parent to try to influence where we live, if we can. My children will never grow up believing their mother just accepts being oppressed and all the other BS and that it's ok because it is the culture.

  46. Hi Glennis - I've asked my husband what would happen if I drove and he said that I would end up with a huge caravan of vehicles following me, and I would be arrested. Not gonna try it...

    Hi Beth - Women drive in other Islamic countries, so obviously it has nothing to do with Islam, but somehow the men here try to make it seem like it does.

    Hi Anon/Kristina - My impression is that more and more women here want to work. Many are not permitted to work by their husbands. Money that is earned by women here is supposed to go strictly into her own pocket and not into the family income, however I don't know that it always works out that way. The only public transport available for women is taxis, which places women inside a vehicle with an unrelated man, which is supposed to be a sin here. Thanks for your comment - good to hear from you!

    Hi Daisy - You are absolutely right. Enough husbands and fathers need to take a stand next to the women here and protest, otherwise this situation will likely never change.

    Hi AmyK - Thanks!

    Hi Online - I don't understand...

    Hi Angelka - Public buses are for men only, and usually it's foreign workers who ride them.

    Hi Mel - Thanks - it's getting old at this point, especially when I see these little boys behind the wheel. If it made sense - ok - but it doesn't.

    Hi DARA - Thank you so much.

    Hi Kate - The young Saudis drive that way here too. They speed and weave in and out of traffic, cut off other cars - it's scarey! Sorry to hear they cross over to Bahrain and do the same thing there!

    Hi Anon - I had been learning all about Saudi Arabia for 30 years before I came here, but actually living it, no matter how prepared you may be, is still a challenge. I feel that there are things here that could change, especially where women are concerned, and I will continue to speak up about it. My husband married me because of the person I am. I have always been outspoken when I see unfair treatment and illogical rules. I stand by what I said about how preposterous it is that little boys can drive here without any problem, but I cannot.
    So I just have one question for you: When your husband takes on a 2nd wife, you will just accept it and have no opposition to it?

    Hi Chris - I love that quote and I do remember it. In fact I had a refrigerator magnet with that on it! My son is a free thinker and he's not in agreement with how women are restricted here.

    Hi Sandy - Thank you - I totally agree. My son is on MY side too.

  47. Hello again Susie,

    I couldn't resist adding to my earlier post.

    To those who would accept the ban on women driving: it is interesting how a society must blind itself to the double standard of denying women the ability to be entrusted to drive, while permitting them to be in positions of trust in other areas of life.

    For example, woman are entrusted with one of the most important and extremely taxing tasks of caring for their newborn baby - needing infinite patience and care - qualities required of drivers. It seems that women are sometimes permitted to work in various fields of great responsibility over the lives of strangers, including medicine, obstetrics etc.

    The argument that a ban is aimed at preserving the dignity of women would appear to have limited weight as I am sure that Saudi women are quite capable of managing situations that may arise in public places. In the case of a breakdown, they would also be able to ring family for assistance. Alternatively, a great way of employing women could be a women-only on-call auto assistance service.

    Even if only a small number of women in KSA actually exercised the ability to drive, it would remove a completely illogical restriction on women's movement.

    The ban, like many other restrictions on women's rights, is also contrary to many provisions of human rights conventions. Saudi Arabia has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Although KSA did make what is known as a 'reservation' in regard to not feeling obliged to uphold the Convention when it is contrary to Islamic Law, the authorities should take heed of Article 2. Among other things, Article 2 requires governments to eliminate discrimination against women taking all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.

    The ban on driving should therefore be regarded as an archaic intrusion on women's rights and repealed immediately.

    My best wishes to women drivers everywhere!



  48. Hi Anon/Kristina - Thanks so much for all that info! It would seem that since driving is not contrary to Islamic Law for men OR women, we could expec to be driving any day now!!!

  49. Hello again Susie,

    Hopefully the wheels of justice will move so that women can experience greater opportunities in KSA.

    Regarding the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), given that KSA has signed and ratified it (in 2000), this should suggest that the government at least considers some of its contents as legitimate. CEDAW and other Conventions ratified by KSA can therefore be referred to when arguing for greater opportunity for women in KSA.

    (See the following website for further information about CEDAW:

    More info about international laws generally can be found at:

    The trouble is, many countries want to be perceived on the world stage as supportive of certain human rights, but in reality, do the bare minimum they can get away with.

    I wouldn't single out KSA for criticism though. My own country, Australia, has done many things, even in the present day, to trample on people's human rights. And the USA has a lot of work to do to improve its own human rights record. I guess the difference with the USA and Australia is that many more people in our societies do enjoy basic freedoms and the media has much more freedom too.

    All the best to you Susie! I hope you can resolve your transport issues soon!



  50. I feel that not driving is a human rights issue and not a religious issue. Women should be allowed to drive. If husbands were made to drive their wives around all the time then things would change and women would be allowed to drive. When husbands feel a real inconvenience then it will change. Also, if the government insists on women not driving then they should provide free drivers and only women buses. Women should not have to sit at home completely bored because their is no transportation for them.

  51. For Anon (19Sep/941pm) - At this time, I can't see that happening. My son feels American and doesn't really want to spend his adult life here. I don't see his feelings changing. Had he come here as a younger child, his thinking might be different, but he doesn't feel the attachment to this place like his dad has.

    For Anon/Kristina - Thanks again for all those links!

    For Anon (20Sep/10:42pm)- You are correct - banning women from driving is not a religious issue at all. It IS a human rights issue, as so many of the restrictions placed on women here are. If men were inconvenienced like the women are, they wouldn't like it one bit. Thanks for you comment.

  52. Hello Susie

    This is my 1st visit and I like your blog,,,I wud appreciate if you comment on the following site:

    thanks a million,


  53. Susie, I have a suggestion. Consider having your husband interview some taxi drivers 'till he finds one he is comfortable with and agree on some rates/times on a regular basis. Before I had a driver I was working and that's what we did.

    I also used to take taxi's- if I knew where I was going.

    Should you work it out- use that time for yourself- keep your husband driving grocery duty.

  54. Susie, it's totally insulting!
    And stupid too, letting small boys drive! Tssss, as if men arent stupid and dangerous enough in old age they let them drive at a young age?????

    Great to see the pictures though! I've heard it so many times, but now I finally get to see it for real!

    I'd grow mad if I had to live there.
    I'd also have a shemagh and a false beard and dark glasses for driving.....

    Of course captain Kabob is on the side of right. Captain Kabob rocks big time!!!!!

  55. Hi Susie,

    You are sure right and have used all the right words. I myself have observed such happenings. However, I do feel it is dangerous at this point in general for women to drive here in Saudi Arabia. It is because the government must first have the traffic rules applied -- followed. Unless this is done, women drivers would be at more risk. And even though you are very good at driving and have been following the traffic regulations for safety, others are still not. Discipline in driving must be imposed. - RYAN LOPEZ

  56. That is ridiculous, Ryan. By that arguement, we shouldn't passengers in any cars. And yet we are. How is that more safe- if I am a better driver than my driver???

  57. Hello,

    I have a question. Are women allowed to ride camels and horses there?

  58. I am living in Riyadh & the same thing is happening here. I told my Saudi husband recently, I was going to start taking pics and publishing them. Its Depressing. Like you, 1st car in USA at 16, and here cannot even drive. I constantly worry about my children with a taxi driver, if he "really" knows how to drive, and if we are going to make it home...knowing I can drive better than he can! Frustrating...I understand the feeling "roadrage" !!! I start wanting to throw rocks at the male drivers when they are acting so stupid and putting lives in danger when I know there are responsible females that know how to drive riding around in taxis! Michelle Al-Sowayan, Riyadh, KSA.

  59. Well actually Sandy, what I meant when I say "women drivers would be at more risk" is because we know for a fact that most women tend to be more emotional and in case of accident may handle accidents differently.

    For one is the reaction when such collision happens, for sure is more frightful when children hears them scream. Most men drivers would not even scream in an event of accident.

    My apologies, I don't wish any ladies to be upset with my personal views. FYI: I do not support the ban on women driving too. I have been in Oman for about 7 years, and while women are allowed to drive there, accidents are even lesser there compared to those in Saudi Arabia. Main reason is the driving discipline and strict implementation of traffic regulations.

    Which place is safer? I would say passenger backseat as more safer than the driver's seat.

    In case you have a reckless driver, definitely, your won't keep him for long the moment you knew his driving skills, the moment you find him irresponsible in driving.

  60. Ra-yan, you do get it coimpletely wrong though. Maybe women show their emotions more than men but that does not icapacatate them. I feel deeply and acutely, but that does not stop me from acting perfectly to the point in times of trouble.
    i was very upset when I came home after a bad experience, and found my house burglared and emptied out. That was a huge shock, I was very emotional. But that didn't mean I sat down and astarted crying? I immediately formed a list of things to do and acted perdfectly rationally and logically upon the situation.

    Please, i have seen men go to pieces when decisions have to be made in such disastrous circumstances.

    My soaring plane was in a very bad position for landing, I could have crashed and died, I was very upset and worried, ut that didn't stop me from acting colly and doing exactely the right things and put my plane down safely regardless.

    You make a big mistake thinking women are handicapped because of their capacity to feel. Women are on the contrary the richer for it, and it doesn't stop them from rational behaviour in any way.

    And do you think a ten year old child will be that ''rational'' and ''unemotional'' when the little twat has caused an accident?
    You must be joking!

    And I have stood by my friend when she was in an accident. run down by some idiot while she had total right of way. You should see how emotional that loser was!
    Get real! please!

  61. Ryan - you sound like your from another time (pre-historic, Neadertal). Even if what you say was true (and it is not)it still makes no sense. If I scared my kids by screaming in an accident it would not matter if I were a passenger or driver. If I will scream, I will scream regardless.

    But I bet I would look after my children better in an accident. I bet I know a lot more first aid than my driver- and probably than any paramedics that might show up. I have faced a crisis before-and I managed to keep my head.

    But again- what difference? There is a crash and I am a passenger- or I am driving? I will either panic or not regardless.

    I will agree that traffic regulations and laws should be enforced no matter what. And many people I know keep bad drivers because it is so difficult to get a new one. They are stuck. Or they have their 12 year old son drive. This whole situation is ridiculous.

  62. Sandy and Aafke, I completely understand what you are feeling. But please don't get me wrong. I
    am not a male chauvinist and do respect your views. I could be wrong in my assumption.

    About those young brats, I am not trying to justify then. Traffic enforcers and parents should do
    something about this.

    My final word and stand is that I won't let my wife drive here in Saudi Arabia even if the ban is lifted until such time the driving environment starts to turn the other way around.

    Dear Susie, thanks for sharing your experiences and please continue to have a wonderful time.


  63. Ra-yan, I understand your pint of view in a way, there's nothing wrong with being worried about the safety of a loved one.

    On the other hand I find it completely unrealistic. After all, women have to get out to go somewhere from time to time.
    The real danger is your actual presence onthe road. And yet you think that a woman is safer when driven by a thirdworld ignoramus as when she has 10 years driving experience and drives herself?????

    I think I, being a very experienced driver, would feel (and be )safer driving myself as to have some dumbo driving me whose only qualification is having a dick.
    Which in my opinion is a deterrent for safe driving in the first place.

  64. Ryan, you are indeed a male chauvinist. You won't "let" her drive?

    I think that pretty much says it all.

  65. Now you know how us, mature children, feel about all the excessive rights and privileges adults have. Like you, I have a clean record in driving, as I was driving since I was 5, in the especially tricky roads of the country. I have been trusted by my parents to take their Toyota Harrier to go shopping to the nearest shop (1 mile from our house) alone. It frustrates me how many children my age (12) are mature enough for responsibilities but governing bodies refuse to acknowledge us. But that doesn't mean I despise adults. It really is unfortunate for the sexism in your residential area. Sincerely, Enkhbold.

    1. Hi Enkhbold - Your comment has not only made me very sad but also distressed. Sorry, but I don't think ANY 5 year old child - or 12 yr old - should be driving a vehicle anywhere in the world. You are extremely lucky that you have a clean driving record. But what if you had an accident and wiped out an entire family in the process? Saddling a child with that type of responsibility and guilt is abusive and shows extreme negligence by the parents. There are good reasons why there are laws in most places that restrict children from driving until a certain age. It's maturity, physical development, and common sense. I'm not saying that you do not possess these qualities yet, but most children your age don't. You need to remember that all adults were children once. These laws are for your own protection and the protection of those you could unintentionally harm. I do wish you the best and I pray for your safety and those around you.