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AKIPRESS.COM - Saudi women drivers took to the roads legally Sunday for the first time in the kingdom's history, as its decades-old ban on women driving finally lifted.
The end of the controversial ban brings the ultra-conservative Gulf nation into line with the rest of the world. It also represents the culmination of years of campaigning by rights activists who have sometimes been arrested and imprisoned for their efforts, CNN reported.
More than 120,000 women applied for a driver's license Sunday, according to senior Ministry of Interior and Traffic Directorate officials.
"Demand for obtaining driving licenses is very high," said Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki, official spokesman of the Ministry of Interior.
Mona Al-Fares, a doctor, was in her car before midnight, waiting for the ban to lift before setting off through the streets of Jeddah with her husband and children.
"I feel like I'm surprised -- am I really driving in my own country? I feel happy, relieved. I feel like I'm free," she told CNN.
The step, first announced last September, will liberate many women from the constraints of needing to hire a male driver to travel even small distances, allowing many more to join the workforce, grow their own businesses and explore the kingdom.