Taste of freedom

Where women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to get behind the wheel and drive

In this 2014 file photo, a woman rides in bumper cars during a festival to celebrate Eid al-Adha in Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia may still prohibit women from driving on the country’s roads, but inside a theme park in the coastal city of Jeddah, the women sit back, grip the wheel, and let it rip. Sure, the cars may be of the electric bumper car variety, but the women aren’t there to crash into one another. In fact, using a bumper car to, well, bump, can cause other women drivers to shout angrily that they are trying to drive and to leave them alone, women told The Wall Street Journal.

“I come here to drive,”Joudi al-Omeri  al-Omeri, a 27-year-old homemaker told the paper. “It’s much better than bumping against others.”

The Al Shall Theme Park hosts weekly ladies nights for the women to dress how they please and speed around the penned-in arena. The driving is even tolerated by men on the theme park’s mixed-gender nights. Mohammed Bayea told the Journal wouldn’t want women driving in the real world because men might flirt with them, but “it’s OK if they drive here,” he said.

The idea of women driving in Saudi Arabia is a subject of constant national discussion, where the arrival of Uber recently has allowed women more mobility without the aid of male companions than previously. Women at Al Shall told the Journal that they would love to drive in the real world, and some confide that they already have. But every week, they know that they can come to the park and feel the wind in their hair as they race those bumper cars around.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

Related:

Saudi Arabia’s investment in Uber just another way to keep women from driving, some say

In an apparent reversal, Saudi prince is now “not convinced about women driving”

Top Saudi Arabian cleric proclaims women drivers “a dangerous matter”

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