As far as some Saudi women are concerned, driving a quad bike is somehow a realization of a dream that is yet to come true – driving a car. In the remote desert regions, away from the hurly-burly of city life and public eye, they engage in driving quad bikes. They see it as fun, with a blend of some adventure and recklessness. They also enjoy recklessly speeding along zigzag desert roads, which are different from that of cities. There are dangers involved in such driving, according to a report in Al-Riyadh Arabic daily.
Speaking to the newspaper, several housewives and girls expressed the pleasure and enjoyment they feel when they drive quad bikes. While watching a number of women driving quad bikes, it was noticed that they drove recklessly through roads that were neither leveled nor paved. It was found that the vehicles were a little bit high and that made it difficult and sometimes dangerous for them to get on and off from the bike.
Fatin Al-Diyab said driving a quad bike was not sufficient to satisfy her desire to drive a car and move around the city. “For me, driving a quad bike is simply for fun and recreation. On the other hand, what I eagerly wished for was to drive a car to meet my needs and necessities,” she said.
Echoing the same view, Ruqiyya Al-Sameer said, “I will compensate the fact that I cannot drive a car by driving a quad bike, though it won’t satisfy my desire to drive a car. If I have been given a choice between driving a car and a quad bike, I would prefer a car without even thinking, even if it was for fun,” she said.
Al-Sameer noted that she will still cherish her big ambition of driving a car one day. “See, there is a big difference between driving a quad bike in a remote area and a car in the city. We drive the bike in remote rugged terrains and, therefore, we cannot compare it with driving inside the city and its paved roads,” she pointed out.
On her part, Amjad Al-Obaidi said a young woman’s passion to drive would not restrict her to driving only a quad bike in a remote area. “The important thing is getting our right to drive in order to meet our needs, and not for just leisure.”
Molak Al-Otaibi said she finds partial enjoyment in driving a quad bike in the desert.
“I try to satisfy my thirst to drive in Riyadh city, at least partially, through this act. While driving a quad bike, I feel delighted as if riding with a buoyant spirit. I feel that this is a start of a world of surprises and excitement.”
Agreeing with Al-Otaibi, Ghadeer Al-Hanaki said, “Though my family members are support me in having some sort of enjoyment by riding a quad bike, they worry a little that some young men might create problems for me while driving.”
Sara Saad said practicing this hobby was to fulfill the desire of some women to drive vehicles, as well as to prove their ability, in addition to enjoyment and recreation.
She is confident that her skill in driving a quad bike will be helpful in driving a car one day when Saudi women are allowed to drive.
Experiment and opportunity
For Tasneem Abdullah, driving a quad bike is a different experience. “For me, it is freedom from the road network in the city and its restrictions when I go to any remote area.
“Driving a quad bike in the desert means enjoying some sort of responsible freedom with the consideration that it is one of the luxurious and comfortable means of recreation for young women.”
Al-Obaidi is of the view that the decision not to allow women to drive encourages young women to drive quad bikes to prove their capability on driving. “There is also some sort of recreation in this type of driving. This could be considered as a chance for women to experience driving a car in the future,” she said. She, however, added that there would be differences.
Means of recreation
Al-Diyab pointed out there are differences in the viewpoints of people with regard to women’s driving. Society and family see driving of a quad bike as simply driving for recreation and enjoyment. She said, “A woman’s driving of a quad bike should not be an issue purely because of its purpose. It is a means to have some enjoyment and recreation in specific places.”
Al-Diyab noted that society does not see quad bikes as one of the basic means of transportation, but only as a means of recreation in remote desert regions. “Women engage in this recreation in regions away from cities. They wear abayas while driving mainly inside rented tents, away from public sight.”
Echoing the same view, Noura Amer said, “I came to know that there are specialized squares for women to drive quad bikes in Al-Thumama region. This enables women to drive for enjoyment without any restrictions.”
Al-Sameer said it might not be possible for women to wear her full Islamic dress while driving quad bikes.
Muna Shahbal said nobody can say for sure that driving a quad bike would be immodest or offensive for woman. There could be differences of opinion with regard to the best place, suitable time, and ideal dress for a woman while driving a quad bike. Hence, the cases of one or two women cannot be taken as the norm, she said.
Al-Sameer claimed society in general is receptive to women driving quad bikes under the observation of her family members or at designated places. On the other hand, Al-Obaidi said some family members are scared of allowing their women to drive a quad bike for fear of accidents.
“They generally prevent their women from driving quad bikes, simply because they fear for their safety, but not because they might face ignominy or criticism from members of society.”
She emphasized that driving a quad bike cannot be counted as a means of enjoyment or recreation, but there is a chance of danger compared to other means of transportation and recreation.
Al-Obaidi noted that there have been substantial differences in the concept of modesty with the passage of time.
“Ten years ago, women driving quad bikes in the desert was considered as something shameful. But things have changed and now it has become a means of recreation and an outlet for relaxation.”
However, Shahbal said driving quad bikes continues to be a contentious issue. “Each section of society has its own reasons and justifications for preventing young women from driving. But this is purely an individual decision taken by the head of each household,” she added. — SG