“So, what are the rules for the roundabouts?” My concerned father asked.
“What rules?” I scoffed. “It’s first come first serve.”
Welcome to driving in Saudi Arabia!
On September 24th, 2017 I moved to Dammam, Saudi Arabia with my husband. I knew that by law, women were prohibited to drive in this conservative country. Rather, we are escorted by paid male drivers or male relatives.
In the beginning I was honestly OK with it. In general, I don’t like to drive much. Of course when my father first taught me, I was terrified but then I grew to love it, feeling so cool and unstoppable. As I got older, driving just became a drag for me. Maybe it was the fact that I lived in a city and had the convenience to walk almost anywhere or maybe it just lost its appeal to me. But back in Virginia, I would always prefer my sister or friends to drive.
On September 26th, 2017 Saudi Arabia announced women will be allowed to drive joining the rest of the modern world. The tentative date would be sometime in June and finally it was confirmed that by June 24th, women would be permitted to drive! آخيرا What a relief. Let the countdown begin!
I could not believe it! 2 days after my arrival to a country that oppresses women and is highly conservative, a miracle has happened! Allah is watching over me. الحمد لله
In the beginning, I felt like a Queen. My husband drove me to wherever I “commanded” in these crazy streets. He was truly my personal driver. I was thankful because the way men drive here is outrageous. They have neglected the laws and created their own as if they are in an intense game of Grand Theft Auto.*
- Switching Lanes. Even though there are CLEAR white lines dividing the street into three lanes, they still drive in-between them acting as though the lines are invisible or don’t apply to them. They also love swerving and cutting people off
- U-Turns. There are usually two lanes that are dedicated to left turns or u-turns only. They are obvious because there is a strip of concrete that separates and designates that this road is specifically for left and u-turns only. Men from the right-most lane (about 2 or 3 lanes away from the concrete) STILL make u-turns or left turns! Are you FREAKIN’ KIDDING me? How did these boys get their driver’s license?
- Turn Signals. They don’t use them and it drives me CRAZY. How am I supposed to know that you’re about to run into me? On several different occasions, a driver will be SO close to our car while they are switching lanes and even though my husband is honking for a good amount of time, THEY JUST IGNORE IT.
- Roundabouts. These are the scariest to drive through. Boys just go in, NOT checking if there is enough space for them to enter. While you’re in the roundabout, it is absolute chaos. People swerving, honking, creating their own lanes, just a huge f*cking mess. If there is a traffic light to control traffic, it isn’t bad at all. However, with no traffic light people are entering when they please, switching lanes without warning, honking at you if you’re in there way. Ugh, I’m generally cursing at them the whole time.
*Riyadh and Jeddah have it worse since the cities are more populated.
Driving did NOT seem appealing to me. But as time moved on, I despised not being able to drive. I felt stuck. I had to depend on two choices: My husband or Uber/Careem. I guess it is important to take advantage of everything that you have in your life. Count your blessings my readers.
Uber/Careem would be useful when my husband was busy at work. However, taking it everyday is not very wallet-friendly. Unfortunately, there isn’t public transportation for me to depend on either.
As much as I am thankful and grateful for my husband for driving me to places , it just became a drag. I literally couldn’t go ANYWHERE unless my husband was available.
- Sun: 5PM – Midnight
- Mon: 5PM – Midnight
- Tues: 5PM – Midnight
- Wed: 5PM – Midnight
- Thurs: 5PM – Midnight
- Friday: 12 PM – Midnight
- Sat: Depending on how many hours he decides to sleep in (and he loves his sleep)
During the school year, this didn’t affect me as much the weekends and breaks did. Now that it’s summer vacation, I most DEFINITELY need to drive to get around. It is exhausting to consistently depend on someone else. I want to go and run errands, do my grocery shopping, sit at a cafe, sing my heart out while driving, I want my freedom back. And I’m pretty sure my husband feels the same way. I am an annoying customer.
Am I scared to drive?
100% but I’m not going to have it inhibit me from my happiness. I’ve honestly HAD it. Imagine the ease of being able to drive for most of your life and you have that taken away from you.
I recall the first couple of months I was here there were almost 2 accidents a day. Policemen were also NOT doing their jobs of pulling drivers over who ignore basic driving laws. But as time passed, I have seen less and less accidents as well as police officers FINALLY pulling over reckless drivers. I believe this is mainly because women will start to drive very soon. Women, making Saudi’s society better one step at a time.
Plus, I am terrified to drive in those roundabouts. They are a hub of madness and chaos. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to avoid them since they are basically at every other traffic light. Lol. BUT, I know the more I drive here I’ll get used to it. Plus, I can teach these boys a thing or two about the etiquette of driving.
My 30 year old cousin in law recently got her driver’s license, WOOHOO! But she was telling me how unaware her husband was of driving rules. WHAT!? I’m just hoping that when women start driving that men will follow the rules or be more cautious about driving. NOT that women start to become reckless like them. I’ll keep you posted! Overall, I am stoked to be apart of a major turning point in Saudi’s history. I have already seen some women driving and it is getting me SO excited.
Not being able to drive has been my number one complaint about living in Saudi thus far, just ask my mom. My freedom and independence was taken away from me. I just want to have a daily routine OUTSIDE of my apartment. Is that too much to ask? Kudos to the women of Saudi who have been accustomed to having a driver AND to those who have been fighting for women’s rights for countless years.
Note: Many women have their licenses issued from other countries. While many others, large age range, have recently got their licenses through an intensive & expensive (unfortunately) driving courses given in Saudi.
Let me know in the comments what do you think will happen the first couple of months of women driving, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SAUDI ARABIA.
Thank you my beloved readers for taking the time to read my post!
Till next time!
Dans in Dammam
*photos are not mine, they belong to an amazing photographer Tasneem Alsultan! Check out her page!