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Saudi Arabia’s next revolution: female taxi drivers

JEDDAH: Hunched over platters of dates and Arabic coffee, Saudi women raring to drive once a government ban ends next June signed up for another revolution — to be the kingdom’s first female cab drivers. King Salman last month decreed that women will be allowed driving permits, a historic reform that could put not just millions of women behind the wheel but potentially many more into the workforce. Sensing a lucrative opportunity, ride-hailing company Careem says it plans to hire up to 100,000 female chauffers to lure new clients in the gender-segregated kingdom. This week, the company invited AFP to its first recruitment session in the coastal city of Khobar, which attracted a diverse crowd — from housewives to working women — who already have foreign driving licences. “For years I felt helpless. My car would be parked outside and I could not drive,” said Nawal al-Jabbar, a 50-year-old mother of three, sipping coffee from a thimble-sized cup. A chorus of hoots and claps erupted in the auditorium as the women, who learned about the recruitment by word-of-mouth, watched news footage on a projector screen of last month’s royal decree. “It felt like we had woken up in a new Saudi Arabia,” Jabbar said. An instructor stood next to the screen, holding up a smartphone to show the inner workings of the app.–AFP

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