Cars and girls: Saudi Arabia opens first women-only motor showroom

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The move comes months before the decree ending women drivers in the kingdom goes into effect.

Saudi women tour a car showroom for women in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah

Saudi Arabian women have been kicking tyres and nodding knowingly at the kingdom’s first car exhibition aimed at females.

The showroom opened on Thursday (11 January) in a shopping mall in the western Red Sea port city of Jeddah. It comes four months after the conservative Muslim nation announced it would lift its ban on women drivers.

The mall was decked out in pink, orange and yellow balloons with slogans saying: ‘Drive and Shop’. A team of female salespeople were on hand to navigate a path through car finance.

One customer Ghada al-Ali told Reuters: “I’ve always been interested in cars, but we didn’t have the ability to drive. And now I’m very interested in buying a car but I would like the payments and prices to not be very high.”

Last September, the 81-year-old head of state King Salman signed a decree giving women the right to drive, ending the nation’s position as the only country in the world to ban female drivers.

The order comes into effect in five months, and will be a huge change for women – who have had to rely on costly male drivers or male relatives to get to work or visit friends.

The move is part of wide-ranging and ambitious reforms the kingdom has embarked on, which aim to diversify its oil-rich economy, slash corruption and introduce more liberal social reforms.

The 32-year-old son of the king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is the face of that change and many younger Saudis hope he will be able to modernise a very traditional nation.

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