Saudi women take the wheel, test-driving a new freedom

JIDDAH: In a few short months, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to take the wheel _ but first there’s driver’s ed.

At a university in Jiddah, dozens of women who have never driven before are learning to buckle up, check their mirrors and gently brake. Like first-time drivers anywhere, they are giddy with anticipation, and perhaps a bit nervous, as they look forward to gaining a new level of freedom.

A stunning royal decree issued last year by King Salman announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018 upended one of the most visible forms of discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia, where guardianship laws still give men the final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

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