Last Tuesday I rented a car. Me, a woman, rented a car in Saudi Arabia. It has only been less than two months since the ban on women driving and I’ve done my best to be part of history in the grandest of ways.
In my opinion anyway. 😉
What did I do in my rental car?
Glad you asked.
First, I drove to work. Which was epic. The feeling of freedom and independence was amazing. Being able to get in the car and drive to Starbucks on the way. A-m-a-z-i-ng!
But then it was time to go Bahrain. What. An. Experience. Albeit a bit of a crazy experience.
The causeway border is insane! Everyone and their momma heads off to Bahrain. Every day, but most especially on weekends and holidays.
It took me 2.5 hours to get to my hotel. Which, quite frankly, is really good. Considering it can take 4 hours, if not longer. It helped that I left at 1:30pm, before most got off work. So it wasn’t so bad. Which I can’t say the same for when I returned to Saudi. Let’s just say the experience gives way to a whole new meaning to CHAOTIC.
Just try to imagine everyone trying to squeeze into a lane at once. Cars to the left. Cars to the right. Big cars. Small cars. All wanting to get to the next booth. If you can’t drive with confidence you’ll get stuck, or worse–get in a small fender bender. It is not for the fainthearted. At all.
I think that’s why–despite women being allowed to drive since June–the men working at the border were a bit taken aback when I pulled up to their window. There aren’t many of us, yet. In fact, going or coming I didn’t see one female driver. After the experience I had I can see why. In many oh-my-God-this-is-insanity ways I would have rather been in the passenger seat. Though I regret nothing. I feel a lot more confident in my driving skills now. 😎
Moving on, my second and final road trip (with the rental anyway) was yesterday. Two of my colleagues and I hit the road to go check out the caves in a city called Al Hasa. Which is around 1.5 hours away.
We left around 7am, after getting some Starbucks of course, and hit the road. There is not much to write home about regarding the views one has when traveling in Saudi. I learned that from my travels via train and bus. It’s Saudi…a place full of sand to one side and desert on the other. In the parts that I’ve seen thus far anyway. Oh, and camels. You will be privy to seeing camels along your drive.
The scenery does change when getting into AlHasa as that’s when you start seeing hills or (small) mountains.
The pic below is of us getting our second cup at the Starbucks in Al Hasa.
After we got our caffeine fix we headed to the reason why we drove to AlHasa to begin with. The famous caves.
One of my former student’s husband met us there. Now, I did live in AlHasa for 9 months, but never saw the caves as the place was under renovation. So, suffice it to say, I was excited to finally see them. Why be in a country if you don’t at least see some of it?!
Ok, now please don’t think me ungrateful but MAN WAS IT HOT! I’m talking 45c/113f hot! And us women having to wear those abayas (robes) did not help our cause. Just putting that out there. That all said, it was quite spectacular!
Thankfully, once inside the caves it was much cooler.
It was really cool (pund intended) to get to see some more of Saudi. Stuff that can be hard to do when you don’t have wheels to take you there. Sure, teachers can try and get a group to go. But going in a group of so many different personalities and paying a pretty penny to do so is not the same when going in your own (rental car) on your own timw with a small amount of people. I’m blessed that I’ve been able to take advantage of women driving. To have my Saudi driver’s license and to have the courage to get out there and explore. These are memories I’ll forever cherish.
Anywho, seeing the caves and battling the heat outside of them while looking at the rocks was quite awesome. Thanks to our guide we even got to climb to the (sorta) top of a (baby) mountain (more like hill) and see over AlHasa and the date farms.
Gratefully, nobody got hurt. And nobody minded us NOT having our abayas on at that time.
After the time in the scorching heat we headed inside for lunch. Which my former student and her husband treated us to. That was most unexpected, but not surprising as they have always been generous. One of the loving qualities of Saudis actually.
After lunch we headed back to our city of Khobar–with one last stop at Starbucks. Hey, we love that place, what can we say. 😎😉✌🏾
We were hot, sweaty and tired. The sun wore us out. But we left with a lot of pictures and an experience that not enough (female) foreigners in Saudi get. But I’m hopeful that will change.
And the bonus on our way back was a truck with Saudi guys in it giving us their thumbs up approval of women driving in their country.
How awesome is that?! We thought it pretty awesome!
When we got back to our apartments we were happy to be back, but happier that the day was just about perfect. And why wouldn’t it be…as it surely was an epic (Saudi) road trip.