Saudi Arabian woman drives F1 car ahead of French Grand Prix

Saudi Arabian woman drives F1 car ahead of French Grand Prix

Saudi Arabian woman drives F1 car ahead of French Grand Prix

Aseel Al-Hamad drove a Renault Formula One auto around the French Grand Prix circuit in front of thousands of fans and declared the start of a new era for Saudi women in motorsport.

A picture taken June 3, 2018 shows a Saudi woman, "Noura", taking part in a training session at the Bikers Skills Institute, a motorcycle driving school, on the outskirts of Riyadh.

"I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it's also the birth of women in motorsport in Saudi Arabia", she said.

In a few hours, she says she'll drive herself to work for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

The world's last such ban had been justified on a variety of religious and cultural grounds such as the proposition that women driving would promote promiscuity and sin.

Uzma Chohan, 38, has never driven and relies on a driver or her husband to go places.

A Saudi woman practices driving in Riyadh in April, ahead of ban being lifted on women driving in Saudi Arabia.

Auto companies also see opportunity in this country of 20 million people, half of them female.

The lifting of the driving ban is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's programme to modernise some aspects of Saudi society.

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Human rights groups in the kingdom have campaigned for years to allow women to drive.

As the country prepares for the ban to come to an end, they seem to be paying attention to important details. As for the male drivers on the road, "they were really supportive and cheering and smiling", she said. There were no reported casualties or damage immediately, but there was shrapnel on a street in the diplomatic quarter where most embassies are located and many foreigners live, a Reuters witness said.

Women drivers and people throughout Saudi Arabia have been publishing scores of photos and videos to social media following the lifting of the ban.

After more than 60 years spent stuck in the passenger seat, the Gulf kingdom's 15.1 million women can finally take control of the steering wheel when the ban on female drivers is lifted.

Previously, women in Saudi Arabia had to depend on chauffeurs and male relatives to travel anywhere via vehicle, even to run simple errands. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses. "Sudden. I feel free like a bird". And the classes can be costly, running several hundred dollars. The ministry declined to disclose how many women had received licenses so far, saying the process is still in the early stages.

"We all know that culture does change with time", he said. "But I don't think a woman should drive if she doesn't need to".

"I definitely won't like to drive", said Fayza al-Shammary, a 22-year-old saleswoman.

"It's a relief", Najah al-Otaibi, a senior analyst at pro-Saudi think-tank Arabia Foundation, said.

Within minuted of the ban expiring at midnight, videos surfaced of women hitting the streets and driving through the kingdom.

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