Thousands of women in Saudi Arabia took to the roads for the first time over the past 48 hours, celebrating a small taste of freedom and independence.
For years Saudi Arabia has been the only country in the world to ban women from driving.
But as the clock struck midnight on Sunday 24 June (the first day of the working week in the Middle East), women in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam got into cars and did victory laps around the city’s centre as the driving ban lifted for women in the Gulf kingdom.
Police officers gifted women flowers as they got into the driver’s seat, fathers and brothers gave their blessings as they cheered them on and women gained a little bit of independence in the conservative country.
Many women cheered as they got behind the wheel for the first time in the country, sharing photos and recording videos of the historic moment.
According to the Guardian, Samar Almogren, a talkshow host and writer, said: “I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.”
Many have taken to social media to celebrate the historic feat.
“Midnight in Jeddah… and she’s going to drive! #SaudiWomenDriving,” one woman posted.
“Congratulations to all women of Saudi Arabia. Today is history this is my wonderful Mama driving in Riyadh #SaudiWomenDriving,” one man wrote on Twitter.
Some women shared videos of them starting engines and driving off.
According to the Evening Standard, the country now has an extensive waiting list of women wanting to take driving lessons – with many relying on fathers and brothers to teach them.
In another historic feat, Aseel Al Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, drove a Formula One car ahead of the French Grand Prix.
“I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it’s also the birth of women in motor sport in Saudi Arabia,” Hamad told Reuters.
“The most important thing I am looking forward to is to start seeing the next generation, young girls, trying [motor sport]. I want to watch them training and taking the sport very seriously as a career. This is going to be really my biggest achievement.”
The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report scored the kingdom at 141 out of 145 countries – which is due, in part, to the fact that women must have the permission of a male guardian to work, study, travel or marry. Many women in the kingdom may no longer have to rely on men for getting from one place to the next, but under the country’s strict guardianship system women still have to seek the permission of a male family member to be able to do many other things.
In recent months the very conservative kingdom has undergone multiple changes. The changes come as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme which aims to broaden Saudi’s economy and lessen its dependency on oil.
You can read more on all of the things women in the Gulf kingdom still can’t do here.