On Sunday, June 24, as the clock struck midnight, women in Saudi Arabia were legally allowed to drive for the first time in history. Just two days later, Careem, the Middle East version of Uber, is already recruiting Saudi women to get behind the wheel after the female driving ban was lifted.
It was back in September 2017 when King Salman announced that Saudi women would be allowed to get their drivers’ licenses, a major liberation for the country’s women. On Sunday, the capital Riyadh erupted in celebration, with women driving around the city and traffic policemen passing out roses to female drivers. Aseel al-Hamad, the first woman to become a member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, celebrated by driving a Formula One car in France.
CNN reports that Careem has received more than 2,000 applications since announcing it would recruit female driver, known as Captinahs. Some of these drivers have already started taking male and female clients. Enaam Al-Aswad, 43, one of Careem’s new drivers, told CNN: “I believe I’ll be good at driving people around. I love driving and interacting with people.”
The first driver’s licenses were issued to women on June 4, and more than 120,000 women applied, the Saudi Interior Ministry reported. While Saudi law did not explicitly ban women from driving, the kingdom did not grant licenses to women. While the lifted ban is certainly a step in the right direction, some women expressed that their country still has a long way to go in becoming less gender-segregated.
A 26-year-old Saudi woman, Arwa, told The Cut in 2017, “The driving issue is very important, but the guardianship law is THE current issue we women face in Saudi Arabia, and we’re suffering because of it. This law needs to be ended and forever buried. I honestly wish they banned the guardianship law first, then ended the driving ban.”