First two Western expat women get Saudi driving licenses

Published:  13 Jun at 6 PM
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Finally, Western women as well as their Saudi equivalents can now get their driving licenses.

June 24 is a day Saudi women and their Western female friends thought they’d never, ever see – the day those who’ve received their driving licenses can hit the road! Two expat women friends, one from Finland and the other from the USA, were first in the queue to receive the precious driving permits. They’d both applied right after the news broke and were thrilled to get two of the first licenses issued to Western women.

Laura Alho and Kelly Downing told reporters it felt ‘surreal’, adding they’re both very excited and have been waiting for the chance to drive again for a long time. Ms Alho even has a jacket with ‘June 24’ sewn into the back – the day when they can finally get behind the wheel. The positive impact on Saudi women of being allowed to drive is well appreciated across the Kingdom, but it’s nothing short of a miracle for female expats used to the independence of driving in their home countries.

Kelly Downing moved to Saudi Arabia from Washington DV six years ago with her Saudi husband. She met 11-year veteran expat Laura through a mutual friend, and the pair watched with fascination as the Kingdom brought in reform after reform over the past few years. Laura arrived as a nurse, but now she’s married with two children and runs a Saudi-focused travel blog.

Once the policy was announced the pair made certain their names were in the first batch of licenses to be issued. Kelly’s husband helped her with the application, but a hitch occurred several days later and the pair’s appointments were cancelled due to a system error. All’s well that ends well, however as, late last Tuesday, they both received messages saying they should collect their licenses the following morning.

The short driving test was easy and included a parallel park and a three point turn before the precious little license was handed out. It transpired they’d been the first European and first American woman to be given driving licenses, with just one Lebanese and several Saudi females sneaking in ahead. They’re both overjoyed, as it’s given them back their former independence, allowing them to go where they please whenever they want without worrying about a driver. By June 24th, they’ll be on the road together, seeing the sights and just enjoying driving.
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