The jokes about women drivers will as from next year finally be worldwide. As the last remaining country on earth to have a ban, Saudi Arabia's King Salman decided by royal decree that women will be allowed to drive in his country as from June 2018.
Until now, only men had been allowed and every woman seen at the steering wheel of a car risked a heavy fine.
The new decree was announced on Saudi state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington attended by Prince Salman. Saudi Arabia hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform.
The US state department celebrated the news, saying it was “a great step in the right direction”.
US President Trump said it was a “positive step” towards promoting women’s rights. As is known, the US-Saudi Arabia relations have improved significantly since Mr. Trump took office whilst many other middle eastern countries are also very positive towards the current White House administration.
Saudi activists, who had been begging the government for years to change this archaic law, reacted with great joy. Campaigner Sahar Nassif said she was "very, very excited - jumping up and down and laughing. I'm going to buy my dream car, a convertible Mustang, and it's going to be black and yellow!"
The Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman, confirmed the ruling, saying that the new law would state that women would no longer have to get male permission to take driving lessons and that they could decide for themselves to drive wherever they liked. Prince Salman called it "a historic and big day" as well as "the right decision at the right time".
Saudi Arabia is clearly changing since King Salman took over following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, in 2015.
Last week saw women entering a football stadium to attend a concert for the feast of the national day, also a first. Muslim campaigners for women’s rights have welcomed the moves by the notoriously conservative country.