(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) — Saudi women drove to work and ran errands on Sunday, relishing the freedom to move about without relying on men after the kingdom lifted the world’s last remaining ban on women driving.
It’s a historic moment for women who have been at the mercy of their husbands, fathers, brothers and drivers to move around. The ban had relegated women to the backseat, restricting when they could meet friends, where they could spend their time and how they could plan out their day.
“It feels beautiful. It was a dream for us so when it happens in reality, I am between belief and disbelief— between a feeling of joy and astonishment,” said Mabkhoutah al-Mari as she pulled up to order a drive-thru coffee on her way to work.
The 27-year-old mother of two is a driving instructor for women and already had a driver’s license from the U.S., where she’d spent time in Tennessee studying. But on this morning, she drove freely in her hometown of Riyadh for the first time. As she prepared to set off on the road, her older brother sent her off with a kiss on the forehead and a wave.
For most of her life al-Mari relied on drivers hired by her family, and she and her sisters had to coordinate drop-offs and pick-ups.
“Now, thanks to God, I can plan out my own schedule and my errands and my daughters’ errands,” al-Mari said.