Saudi women taste driving freedom behind the wheel of bumper cars: video

June 22, 2016

Everyone likes a carnival. Some people like the funnel cakes, some like the totally-not-rigged games, and Saudi Arabian women like the bumper cars.

Scratch that: they love the bumper cars.

Saudi women are prohibited from driving--not by law, but by tradition and by conservative Muslim clerics. In recent years, the country has been pressured to lift the driving ban, both by Saudis and people elsewhere in the world. But in a society that forbids women from traveling anywhere without a male guardian, the thought of giving women the freedom to go where they want, when they want, is jarring.

Some fear that lifting the driving ban would lead to women fraternizing with men--a very big no-no. And at least one cleric has said that sitting in a driver's seat could damage the ovaries.

However, the restrictions on driving don't apply to bumper cars. And so, many women flock to fairs and theme parks for a taste of what driving is like.

What's interesting is that the "bumper" aspect of bumper cars doesn't seem to appeal to women.

On mixed-sex days at amusement parks, women steer clear of men and vice versa, which is perhaps to be expected, simply because the habit has been ingrained. But even on women-only days, many women try to avoid hitting one another with their cars. Maybe it's because they enjoy the thrill of driving, or maybe they're trying to practice for a furtive real-world road trip.

By contrast, one theme-park attendant says that "Men are always bumping".

The phenomenon is widespread--so much so that one artist, Arwa al-Neami, began documenting it in a video project called Never Never Land. You can see a clip of Ms. al-Neami's work embedded above.

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