It is normal today to see development all over the world at a rapid pace. However, what is happening in Saudi Arabia these days is beyond any expectations. To start with, the news that women can finally drive in Saudi Arabia has struck all the right notes with many, this could be considered the last land where female drivers were not allowed behind the steering wheel.
Having lived in Saudi in the early 1980s, and on a current visit after almost three decades, the change is so drastic that it takes a while to fathom. Interestingly, during my previous visits, we could see high rises coming up, new mega malls and road networks improving, but women development matters had little to be noticed. This is no longer the story.
One of the major changes is the huge number of female Saudi employees, who are working in all domains. The government of Saudi Arabia has imposed a quota of Saudi female workers in all industries, this has given many, including those without skills or semi-skilled, a chance to earn a living. But the story is also about those women who have reached high levels of academic achievement, women are now doctors, surgeons, engineers, architects, even pilots.
Besides the fact that working has given women financial independence, and appreciation of the hard work that goes with making money, a matter that was before taken for granted, going out of the house and rubbing shoulders with the real world, has given them a maturity of thought and experience, this will surely help when other doors of opportunity open, such as participation in the political life and in decision making posts that are currently holding empty seats for women. Walking in one of the malls, I notice the big number of saleswomen in each corner, of course they are covered up, some approach you gently demanding to purchase their products, others stand by, shy and waiting for the client to ask for service. A big step forward.
Now, the challenging part remains on the shoulders of Saudi women, how they will take full advantage of these latest developments and how they will start to fly high after being grounded for many years.
Very soon, and for the first time in Saudi Arabia, cinemas will be operational, theatres and musical concerts will be allowed in this once reserved Kingdom, and with dwindling oil prices, it seems that soon, tourist visas will also be issued for anyone who wants to discover the beautiful destinations in this vast country.