Saudi Women, Forbidden To Drive, Turn To Bumper Cars

Published June 22, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Published June 22, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Bumper Cars

Magdalena Alejandra Baldoni/Getty Images

Women in Saudi Arabia, forbidden to drive automobiles, have recently turned to a new hobby to scratch their driving itch: bumper cars.

Over the past few years, Saudi women have been flocking to several of the country’s amusement parks, sometimes with men and sometimes without, in order to ride the bumper cars — and enjoy some independence.

At one of those theme parks in particular, Al Shallal in Jeddah, women enjoy a ladies’ night where they can both ride the bumper cars and wear whatever they’d like. Off come the required abayas and burqas and out come “the latest trends — ripped jeans, tank tops, and tossed-to-the-side ’80s-style hair,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Of course, ladies’ night at the amusement park is a rare oasis of freedom in a country that keeps its women pinned down under some of the world’s strictest laws of their kind — and is the only country in the world that universally forbids women from driving.

Recently, Saudi activists — including two women who were arrested for driving then freed amid a social media firestorm — have ramped up protests of the country’s driving ban.

Even if not treated as a moral or gender rights issue, the fact is that many Saudi women simply don’t have the money to afford drivers, thus the driving ban leaves them stranded at home.

Some say the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund’s recent $3.5 billion investment in Uber, which will bring the company’s ride-sharing to the country, might provide women with a travel alternative and/or merely give the government another excuse to keep the driving ban in place.

For now, that ban’s only reliable loophole may be bumper cars.


Next, discover what the West gets right and wrong about women in Islam. Then, read the Pakistani Islamic council’s recent decree that men can “lightly beat” their wives.

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