Reuters JIDDA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) — Women flocked to Le Mall in Jidda on Thursday to check out the kingdom’s first car exhibition aimed at women, a few months after Saudi Arabia granted them the right to drive.
Pink, orange and yellow balloons hung in the mall’s showroom as women posed for photos and selfies in front of the cars. One woman in the driver’s seat fixed her face cover. Another wrapped her turquoise-painted fingernails around the steering wheel, feeling it out.
In a decree issued in September, King Salman ordered by June an end to the ban on women drivers, a conservative tradition that has limited women’s mobility and been seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression.
Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans women drivers. The landmark royal decree has been hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, is the face of that change. Many young Saudis regard his recent ascent to power as proof their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women’s progress.