Vroom! ڤروم!

27 Sep
Never never land

Never Never Land by Arwa AlNaemi 2014.

Today, I am happy to report, my blog has become Obsolete (or soon will be).

But that’s Okay, and this is why:

This evening, while watching Netflix with my parents in a flat in London, my brother video called us grinning from ear to ear; “Did you hear the news?!”. Clearly we had not.

I check my phone, and sure enough there was a rising number of whatsapp messages and other notifications building up. My phone was exploding with the news:

Today, on the 26th of September, 2017, King Salman has issued a royal decree that Saudi women will be issued drivers licences, just like the men!!!!!!!!!!!


The responses were overwhelmingly ecstatic! True, it won’t be official for another ten months, but the government entities involved were given orders to set a plan in motion. And their deadline was in ten months. That’s only one month more than carrying a baby! Who would have guessed?

Sure enough, like any major event in recent Saudi history, the memes and jokes started rolling in. So soon in fact, that one friend wondered how people managed to come up with them so quickly! Many were funny, some were sexist, some were plain dumb AND sexist, but hey, a little self deprecation never hurt anyone. Plus I believe it’s the Saudi people’s coping mechanism. My personal favorite was “Breaking: The Cow has done a pilgrimage on it’s horns” (our version of “when pigs fly”) (and yes, I do know that it’s bulls that have horns, but that’s how the saying is).

A little later, supportive and serious messages started going around stating that women are the backbone of society and deserve respect for their struggle. I appreciate the thought and hats off to the fighters. The struggle was and is real.

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The hashtags of #noWomanInMyHouseWillDrive in Arabic started trending, to which were replies that they can’t stop progress. Also, #kingSalmanSupportsWomen was trending even more.

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Some scary threatening messages went around, but I’m not sharing them because they deserve to die instead of being promoted and circulated. And some messages that indicate that there is some fear of what this means and a “what next” attitude. I responded to one of those with a simple thanks to Allah for this good news, and a prayer for many more. I pity those that live in suspicion and fear. I hope the realise that the empowerment of their fellow sisters is nothing to fear. And yes, the message I received was from a woman. I hope to see her driving her own car with pride one day Inshallah.

There are also some beautiful artworks by Saudi designers that definitely deserve circulation. I’m posting a few below.

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All in all, it is an historic day. And in all honestly, while I always knew it was a matter of time before we joined the rest of the world, I didn’t really think it would be in MY lifetime. I thought autonomous vehicles and self-driving cars would take over and that would be that. No one would be driving.

I’m happy to realize I was wrong.

And, congratulations! See you on the road in ten months my darlings, I’ll leave you with this thought till we meet again (or  not).


Legal Alien

16 Sep

Hey people, I know I know, I haven’t written here in AGES. Sorry about that. I’ve been traveling a lot and super busy juggling two jobs, I just put this on the back burner. Nothing has really changed, in essence. So the daily little nuances are still there. But my current driver is a wonderful Uncle-figure (who sometimes drives on the wrong side of the road) who is polite and clean so I really can’t complain after all the horrible drivers I’ve had to deal with.

I am back here for a different angle on the same topic: Female expats. I was recently introduced to a young, vibrant, lovely lady who has recently moved here. He plight in adjusting to the new restrictions, while faced with admirable optimism and lack of complaint, has really broken my heart. It’s bad enough that she moved to a new country with a totally different culture, which she is looking at as a wonderful adventure, but I can tell that despite her brave face, the feelings of frustration are starting to surface.

For those of us living in more urban cosmopolitan parts of Saudi, apps like Uber and Careem have REALLY saved the day and the sanity of many of us. I can’t tell you how many times a friend of mine said “Oh my driver is on vacation but that’s okay, I can still get an Uber and meet you.” or “Thank GOD for (insert driver app here)!!”

But for this friend, she lives in an area without those new and sanity saving services, a more remote city of Saudi, and that really makes a huge difference. She’s been struggling to find someone who speaks English, yet he has to be saudi because she cannot sponsor anyone as a non-Saudi. Any Saudi educated enough to speak English will probably not be working as a driver. It’s really a bit of a conundrum. I blame the company that hired her, honestly. Clearly they’re used to hiring only men or they would have a dedicated company driver for her. My advice to her was to go to the HR office and throw a fit or even cry if need be till she gets what she needs. Honestly, drama is the only thing that works with people here. Asking nicely just won’t get you noticed.

Peace out

But he’s MY Driver!

31 Oct

So I have to share my driver with the most unlikely of people: My Dad.

Unlikely because a-he’s a man. b- He has a valid driver’s license. c- That means he can drive here. and best of all, d- He already has his “own” driver.

But I wind up having to “share” with my dad because … well… I have no idea why. His excuse is that he has his own guy doing other stuff. I usually don’t mind if I’m spending the day at work or something. But when it starts affecting me, like when my driver starts acting like I’m overworking him if I want to go out on a Thursday night…. or when I find out my dad is going out on a Friday with MY driver when it’s both drivers’ day off…. I get ticked. He can drive if he chooses to. Yes Jeddah traffic is a nightmare but if he chose to do it no one will stop him! So why does he pull my driver into work on his day off because his driver “goes to bed early”??!! Seriously?! And here I am stuck at home all day, when a simple “because I feel like it” seems to be a good enough reason to ask a man to work on his day off.

If the driver gets tired or burned out and quits, it’s no skin off his back, he could still drive. I’ll be the one who suffers the consequences of his actions. So I did the only thing I could in this situation. I told my dad “He’s MY driver, take your own!”.

Yes, I’m aware of how “mature” I sound, and I’m also aware of how spoiled my dad sounds. In his defense, he’s a horrible driver and sometimes takes meds that could affect his driving abilities. So better safe than sorry. I still wish he’d respect the boundaries of who’s assigned to who. Especially since I get complaints if I make use of his driver. Oh well…. #saudigirlproblems


Why Most Saudi Women Dread Holidays –

27 Oct

… Unless they’re traveling.

If you’ve lived in Saudi for any length of time you will have noticed that anyone who can will rush to the airport as soon as there are a few days off, even a day or two earlier. It’s not because we can’t do with our London/Paris/Nyc/Cairo/Beirut/Dubai/Istanbul visits, (well, it is but that’s not all) It’s because on holidays, most women and families are driver-less, hence stuck at home unless the dad/husband/driving age brother feels like some family time and takes everyone out for a walk on the corniche or around the mall.

It gets even worse when the holiday is attached to the weekend. As if it’s not enough that 50% of my weekend (Fridays) is unplan-able unless its within walking distance or I manage to sort out some other driver. This year, al Adha Eid happened to start on a Saturday. This made for two consecutive stuck-at-home days. No wheels, no friends, no errands, no plans. (In truth we went out for a family brunch on Sat, but you get what I mean).

I’m not advocating making drivers work on holidays, on the contrary I’m all for fair working hours and good holidays. I just don’t see why that should come at the expense of my own rights. Why should my freedom of movement mean someone else’s enslavement? Because let’s face it, that’s what it really is if you expect 18hr workdays and no weekends or holidays. No wonder so many Saudis travel. What all the above cities have in common is that you can just walk out and go to a cafe and see people. Or take taxis and metros and trains and other modes of public transportation. I don’t know about you but the taboo on taxis still stands in my family. And I’ve heard some weird stories about these companies that you hire for individual rides (won’t name names, but one guy started calling my friend on her phone and harassing her, and she had hired him via an app!).

I know some people (hopefully none of you) will say “well big deal, stay at home for a day or two”, but no thanks, I’d rather my lazy couch-potato, anti-social days be self-imposed and not mandatory.

couch potato homer




It’s not that things have been hassle-free…

20 Oct


It’s just that I’ve gotten better at ignoring them, I guess. But I do apologize for neglecting this blog, and internalizing all my random stories and adventures in the backseat driving world. I’ll try to be more regular.

I did embark (with a friend) on an attempt to collect stories like mine that relate to drivers and package them in a nice book cover that would serve as entertainment for future generations. But that’s been put on hold for a little while. Turns out collecting and editing stories is not as easy as a job as I first imagined. Maybe I’ll hire a ghost writer! But if you’re interested in contributing your story, in both Arabic or English, the check out the Driving Me Crazy in KSA facebook page. There you will find instructions on how to participate and will be kept up to date with the development of our admittedly sluggish process.

BUT I’m back! And so are my stories. Stay tuned!


Backseat Driver

13 Feb

back seat driversA guy once told me, “When a car suddenly stops in the middle of the road, know that it has a woman (or more) telling there driver to turn HERE, TURN TURN TURN!! While he has no idea what to do.”

Ha, That’s pretty true, I can vouch for that. Though I normally give my driver enough of a notice to change lanes, he normally doesn’t listen.

So my current driver is a “good guy” so far. Manners, doesn’t argue, looks clean, only smells a bit sometimes. But he’s FOB. He had no idea where Malik road (One of the main roads of Jeddah) was when he first started working for us, (I have no idea how he found his way to our house to begin with). Anyhow, I had to give up playing candy crush in the car because now I had to pay attention to the roads.

“Go straight, stay in the left lane, at the second light turn left. No, not this one, next one.”

“this is called prince Sultan street, remember that. Ok now go straight…… turn left….. turn next right…. go seeda (straight)…. make u-turn….. okay park here! No, no, back up you missed it. yeah ok here, I’ll walk. ”

Yayyy arrived at our destination!

Lol. But he really is a nice guy. And he’s calm. I like that. And willing to learn. Let’s hope he lasts…. Loosing drivers is more traumatizing than ending a relationship.

I think we need to start issuing backseat drivers licenses. So at least we feel some sort of legitimacy. In all fairness, My grandmother is a HORRIBLE back-seat driver. She keeps saying “Luf hena, min hena!!” (Turn here, no no here!), while waving with her hand from the back seat. Naturally, the poor driver has to physically turn around to see if she’s pointing left or right, which is a dangerous thing to do in the middle of the road while driving. Thankfully, they haven’t been in any accidents, God bless and protect them.

But yeah, Saudi women are probably the most professional back-seat drivers EVER. I’m printing the picture above and filling it out with my info and carrying it around in my wallet. In case anyone asks for proof of license.




We need an Ad-lee

6 Feb

Tides change, months and years go by, websites and apps take over the world, and we still can’t drive our cars. No only cane we not drive our cars, but any other form of public transportation either doesn’t exist or is dangerous. But Saudi is full of entrepreneurs and businessmen eager to start something that will make tons of money. What I don’t understand is WHY HASN’T ANYONE SOLVED OUR DRIVER PROBLEM???!!

So far, the most common way of finding a driver is sending out a whatsapp broadcast and having your friends ask their drivers if they know anyone looking for a job. How efficient. Talk about desperate times…


So, if any of you are looking for a lucrative, profitable business, listen closely because I’m about to offer you the business opportunity of the year. Yes it needs a bit of a hefty investment, but trust me, the returns will be worth it.

1- Bring in a fleet of, say, 100 cars to begin with. Brand them nicely with your website on the back.

2- Hire and train capable drivers for those cars. They can be local, but they have to know the roads, wear a clean uniform (opportunity to design your own branded thobes) and have basic manners and communication skills. They have to know that if they make any client uncomfortable or harass her, there will be consequences. They also have to have good benefits and achievable targets/shifts to ensure that they stay on.

3- Get a programmer to design an app like the one Addison lee has in the UK (http://www.addisonlee.com/). Make sure its in Arabic as well. This app will require the pick up time, location, and drop off location. It then provides you with the fee quotation, and sends a text message to your phone with the driver’s car plate and phone number when he has arrived at the pickup point.

4- A modest online campaign or a viral one and You’re ready to go! Just sit back and watch the money roll in.


Addison lee is not the only car pick up service available in the UK. and I’m sure there are many more as well around the world. So why is it so difficult and expensive to get a decent ride? or cheap and dangerous. These illegal drivers are still on the rode, operating their own fleet via word of mouth. My friends were joking the other night about how they are all using the same driver to the point where he tells one about the whereabouts of the other, especially if they got dropped off at the same location!


So yeah, and takers out there?? Come on we need to use these apps to our advantage!

How Candy Crush has Saved My Realationship With My Driver

4 Feb


I’m going to admit to a slight addiction to the notorious Candy Crush. But since I have a fear of Addictions, I limit my use to certain locations… before bed, when I wake up, in the umm… “loo” , and in the car. That last bit has probably saved my driver from having me freak out on him for wrong turns, taking the long way, flashing his lights at cars, weaving in and out of traffic, and various other annoying to dangerous driving habits that my otherwise un-preoccupied self would have jumped at.

Basically I’m not paying attention to his driving, or the road, or the idiots and the road. Not backseat driver, a lot less stress.

So Thank you Candy Crush. You might be a huge waste of time, but in this case, you’ve been very useful!

No way out

6 Nov

There’s a saying in arabic,
لا يرحم الناس ولا يخلي رحمة ربنتا تنزل
It means “he doesn’t show mercy to people nor does he let God’s mercy come down”
It is said when someone does not give you an alternative.  No way out.
With the current ministry of labor crackdown,  most illegal drivers’ legal papers are still being processed,  taking forever because the ministry is totally overloaded.  Some drivers have been here for so long,  totally evading the system that they do not exist,  making it even more difficult,  if not impossible to correct their status.
The “driver for hire” companies are so overloaded that they stopped answering calls of desperate women looking for a ride.
There is no form of safe clean public transportation.
We women are still not allowed to drive.

The only option left is the reckless unreliable and somtimes dangerous taxi drivers in the street. Or the local interpretation of “taxi”.

The problem with bringing in a driver from abroad on your own sponsorship is not only that it’s very expensive,  but also that you can’t test-drive them. Or interview them in person. You risk a lot of money for someone whose only driving experience may be that of driving a rickshaw,  which I’m sure you’ll agree is not the same as a car.

A small part of me hoped this crackdown on illegal workers was a step towards legalising our driving status. I keep being rudely woken up by reality.
What are we supposed to do?

International Support: From Tesla in CA, to Topless in Germany!

31 Oct

I must say, It’s quite heartwarming to see the wave of international support Saudi women have been receiving to support this cause. Ironically, most Saudis are still very weary of anything international (especially the big bad west) and tend to question the motives of said support. Just to quote one facebook comment:

“You can’t support what you don’t understand. I don’t like outsider supporting us because they don’t understand us. what some people are protesting to have Saudi women remove hijab or something else. all I’m saying is what work for one country doesn’t necessarily work for another country. if we want something we will get it . no need to let outsider interfere. it’s not negativity it just opinions man. !!!”

The general view is that this is “our” problem. That its is an internal one and that we don’t need international interference making us look like a bunch of liberals that are out to destroy the fabric of society and westernize our women so that they go out to the streets in shorts and all become strippers.

… or something like that.

I think most Saudi are not only private, but are also very pessimistic with an overactive imagination always assuming the worst. I wonder why that is… and ideas anyone?

Naturally many people have multiple motives for doing things, but that doesn’t eliminate the first motive which is a show of support.

For example, Tesla, the beautiful eco friendly car, has released an emotionally driven ad that supports women driving in Saudi, pleading with the King to make an official decree. Tesla is also a car company that I’m sure would love to enter the Saudi market in the future. The cause also fits their identity: Eco friendly, human rights, world peace. Just because this ad might drive sales for them and gain international viewing doesn’t mean that the message is insincere or false. I personally loved it.

Another widely-reported incident was that of the Activists of Femen protesting topless in freezing temperatures in front of the Saudi embassy in Berlin. While my personal opinion is against such … erm… flamboyant shows of support, it’s still drawing international support and hopefully international pressure. Most social media comments I’ve seen from Saudis and non-Saudis living here showed outrage and disgust and such a performance. Labeling them as exhibitionists, sick, crazy, and doing more damage to the cause than anything else. While I agree that it’s not going to do us any good, I don’t think it will do any damage, and I still appreciate the show of support no matter what crazy form in takes, who am I to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t? Here are some photos, in case you want to check it out. In the end they are only a handful of women who gave the Saudi embassy employees a free peep-show. I can’t help but wonder if they weren’t topless, would many others have joined them. Is it numbers or attention that matter, or neither?

Also on this matter, here is an article by The Sydney Morning Herald discussing accident rates in Saudi, and coming to the conclusion that maybe its Saudi MEN who shouldn’t be driving! haha

Time.com has also posted a few articles, they seem to be following this issue closely. In the first, It talks about what its like growing up in a country where you know you won’t be able to drive when you’re older, and this blog even gets a mention! (Yay so proud), The other looks at how Saudi women are trying to deal with Driving vs Civil rights.

I guess in the end, most Saudis don’t understand empathy for someone you share nothing with, don’t even know, besides being part of the human race (and maybe the same gender). They keep looking upon international input or support with suspicion, stubbornly maintaining that “This is our problem, we can handle it ourselves.”

Well hun, you belong to the only and last country in the WORLD that bans women from driving. A little support to cheer you up and maybe nudge decision-makers opinions in your favor can’t hurt.