Saudi women take to the races

ABC News(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) — This June, for the first time ever, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive.

In this deeply conservative country, which for decades has officially embraced and enforced a strict, all-encompassing version of Islam, the image of a woman behind the wheel, driving herself wherever she chooses, with no man accompanying her, was seen by many as scandalous, even sacrilegious.

Many other Saudis saw the restriction on women drivers as backwards and embarrassing. And now — they can’t wait to hit the roads.

Some are already practicing, as we found out, in go-karts.

On the edge of the desert outside Riyadh, we found a go-kart track where girls and women zoom around, passing older drivers (like me), spinning out around the curves, enjoying the feeling of speed and power — even in a little 6-horsepower go-kart.

They’re having a blast. And they are part of a revolutionary era here.

The plan to lift the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia is led by the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (“MbS” as everyone calls him).

Since he was catapulted to power with the support of his father, the king, MbS has thrown open the gates to a new, more liberal era for this strategically crucial country, one of the most important allies of the United States.

So amid all the laughter and competition around that track, you could feel the change that is coming to Saudi Arabia — fast.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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