On June 24, 2018, moments after midnight, women across Saudi Arabia hit the road to celebrate the lifting of the decades-long ban on female drivers in the Kingdom. Among those marking the occasion was Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who shared a clip of his daughter, Princess Reem Alwaleed bin Talal, driving the family SUV with his granddaughters applauding in the backseat on Twitter. Manal Al Sharif, the activist behind #Women2Drive campaign, also took to her Twitter account to share a heart-warming video of a woman named Samia Warda driving in the Gulf country for the very first time.
Also among the female drivers getting behind the wheel was Nawal Al Kuwaitia, who in doing so also became the first woman hailing from Kuwait to drive on Saudi soil. Shortly after performing for thousands of female fans in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the Kuwaiti singer made sure to take part in the historic day by hopping into the driver’s seat. Al Kuwaitia shared a video of herself driving after the concert with her 645,000 fans on Instagram, alongside the Arabic caption: “A thousand congratulations to all the women of Saudi Arabia.”
Though a male guardian does not need to be present in the vehicle according to the historic reform, the singer was accompanied by the president of Rotana Audio and Visual Group, Salem al Hindi, who was heard jokingly saying: “It’s your turn to give us a ride now.” The lifting of the ban, first enforced in 1957, was announced last September, and women are now legally able to drive themselves throughout the Kingdom, ending a dependence on private chauffeurs and male relatives.
The reform came as part of a sweeping raft of social and economic changes made as part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Since his pledge last year to modernize Saudi Arabia, the royal has brought about many historic reforms that offer growing opportunities so women, such as allowing females to attend sporting matches in select stadiums and criminalizing sexual harassment.