No Woman, No Cab (Unless You’re Lucky)

When I wanted to get from A to B while I lived in the Balkans, I had the choice between walking, taking the bus, hitchhiking (which a lot of peope in Kosovo do, even female KFOR soldiers) and taking a cab.

Here in Saudi, there is no such thing as public transportation yet, hitchhiking in this society is probably as unthinkable as the possible invention of a time machine any time soon and walking can be taken off the list almost entirely for two reasons: a.) It is way too hot, even in the winter time and b.) There are less sidewalks in this country, if any, than there are in Pristina.

So the one thing that is left here, besides owning a vehicle is taking a cab. As a woman however, that is not as easy as some of you may think. Since women are not allowed to drive here, they are dependent on either an own driver or the mercy of a cabman. Now what do I mean by that?

The thing about taxis and being a woman here is that not every driver will be willing to take you.

When I first came to Riyadh in September, I needed a taxi to drive me home from school. What happened was that the secretary had to call three different taxi services until she found one that would drive a female unknown to him.

I am not so sure what exactly it is that frightens the drivers here so much but I assume that they are just scared of being detected with a female customer that they usually don’t drive around, and that all goes back to the idea of no social interaction between non relatives.

I was reminded of that whole taxi issue just yesterday. I really needed someone to drive me to an interview meeting. So there I was. Questions ready, dressed in my old school uniform from Kosovo, abaya all buttoned up and the only thing I needed was a cab.

The first driver that I called had absolutely no clue where the compound was that I had to go to, the second one didn’t pick up the phone and the reception in my compound was closed as it was friday which is a free day here.

At some point I was just so frustrated with the situation that I almost wished myself bak to Kosovo where the drivers barely manage to find you and if they do, they will talk to you non stop during the whole ride, of which the first one and a half kilometers will be free of charge.

Somehow, I managed to get a taxi at the end but I really must say that this process has never been as tiresome as it is here. Particularly if you are a woman.

So the best thing to do here is either have an own driver, which most likely will cost you a little fortune or have a relative escort you everywhere.

If you have none of the above, I would strongly recommend to bring a lot of patience and stress management skills with you, if you chose to leave the house here.

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