The Washington Post published a story this week about the one place Saudi women can get behind the wheel – an amusement park. What looks like a very tame round of bumper cars is actually a thrilling moment for these Saudi Arabian women, who are banned from driving full-sized automobiles.
On Ladies' Night women queue up for the five-minute rush where they can go anywhere they want. Well, anywhere on the small platform at least. But this experience isn't just about driving for the thrill of it. Before going to school abroad, Sama Bin Mahfooz went to the park to get some practice.
"We never get a chance to in Saudi Arabia – this is the right place to do it," bin Mahfooz told the Journal. "Whenever my best friend would hit me, I would tell her: 'No, let me drive, let me drive!"
Ladies' Night also allows women to relax. Every employee is also female, and so the participants do not have to obey the country's strict codes of dress for the evening. Women are also allowed to use the bumper cars on nights when both men and women are in attendance, though they have to cover themselves from head to toe in abayas. When men ride the bumper cars, they do what most people around the word do – hit others hard. The park then puts up a curtain when it's the women's turn. They go back to driving politely in circles around the platform.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive. Women have been pushing for change in the kingdom for years, but have had limited success. In 2014, two activists from the UAE drove to the border of Saudi Arabia where they were detained for 25 days for the crime of "driving while female." The ban on women drivers is getting called into question, however, on the grounds of practicality. Women are entering the Saudi Arabian workforce in increasing numbers, and many families simply cannot afford to hire a driver.