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But on this morning, she drove freely in her hometown of Riyadh for the first time.

For the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia, women are now allowed to drive. "Even if you dream the impossible you can still achieve it", she said.

"I definitely won't like to drive", said Fayza al-Shammary, a 22-year-old saleswoman.

Maha Mohammed poses for a photograph on a motorbike as she learns how to ride, at the Bikers Skills institute in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2018.

Pedestrians cheered as women motorists drove by, and male drivers shouted words of support and offered thumbs-ups through vehicle windows.

Another driver, Hessah al-Ajaji, told the Associated Press, "I'm speechless".

As for male drivers on the road, "they were really supportive and cheering and smiling", she said.

RENAULT has stolen a march on its Formula One rivals, giving a Saudi Arabian woman a chance to mark a special day by driving one of its cars ahead of today's French Grand Prix.

26 September 2017: King Salman orders preparations to be made for women to eventually be allowed to drive.

Criticism against women driving has largely been muted since since King Salman announced previous year that they would be allowed to drive.

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Michele Mouton, a former rally driver and president of the FIA's commission, said in a statement she hoped Ms Al-Hamad's example would help pave the way for more Saudi women to get involved.

The government has preemptively addressed concerns of abuse by outlawing sexual harassment, with a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).

Just last month, the pendulum appeared to swing away from the latter when several prominent women's rights activists who were at the forefront of calls to lift the driving ban were arrested.

Authorities say eight of the detainees have been "temporarily released" until the investigation is completed. Prince Mohammed has launched Vision 2030, which he says presents Saudi Arabia's blueprint for the future, and includes plans to reduce the country's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure. The campaign imagines a future Saudi Arabia that is more open and inclusive to foreign tourists and investors, and domestically, to women's participation in the workforce and economy.

30 November 2014: Activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi are detained for 73 days an charged with terrorism-related crimes after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. They had also been calling for an end to guardianship laws that give male relatives final say over whether a woman can marry, obtain a passport or travel overseas.

Although women won't need permission of a male relative for getting driving licences, the financial and moral support of men is crucial in what remains a male dominated society. "Sudden", said talk show host and writer Samar Almogren as she drove across the capital.

"It was flawless. Everything was smooth, I felt I belong in the seat", she said afterwards. "It's the efforts of everyone, little drops of sweat", Farahat said. The ten women had obtained their worldwide driving licenses before, except in their home country.

However not all women will be in a position to obtain a driving license.

But there are still limits on what Saudi women can do. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses.


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