Revving up

Saudi Arabia opens its 1st ever car showroom for women

Saudi women tour a car showroom for women on January 11, 2018, in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah. (AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images)

A private company has opened the first ever car showroom for women in Saudi Arabia, paving the way for women to purchase their own cars before the notoriously conservative country finally lifts its ban on women drivers this coming June. The showroom, which will be staffed solely by women, is now open in a shopping mall in the western Red Sea port city of Jeddah. It reportedly has already drawn huge crowds, and featured a variety of vehicles from different manufacturers with a focus on fuel efficiency. The showroom also provided financing options to women buyers from leading banks. In subsequent months, more women-only car showrooms are expected to open across the country.

“My interest in cars started a long time ago as I have a private driver” explained one visitor to the showroom, Abeer al-Harbi, in comments made to NBC News. “I was interested in cars and knew a lot about them. It interests me to learn about the brands, and to learn everything about them so I have a complete idea about cars. I hope to purchase a car in the near future, God willing.”

In recent months, excitement over the upcoming lift of the ban has already led to the penalization of at least one woman who took to the road in celebration before the ban was officially lifted. Longtime Saudi activist Manal al-Sharif, who was once jailed for posting a video of herself driving and later forced to flee the country, has hailed the move as “the one that emancipates [women].” Despite the significance of the driving ban reversal, al-Sharif was quick to point out that women would continue to live as second-class citizens until Saudi Arabia drops its male guardianship system, which requires women to ask male relatives for permission before traveling abroad, getting married, or even receiving medical care — among other things.

Watch video of the showroom below.

Read the full story at NDTV.

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