Last December, when I left London to go back home to Saudi for a while, everyone thought I would just disappear and stay there forever. Some of my friends even advised me to shop and do everything possible in London and their justification was: “you are going back to Saudi and you might not come back.” My response to these assumptions was “you never know, everything is possible” because Saudi is only a flight away like the rest of the world.
When I returned to London, two months later, everyone was in shock. I found the various reactions entertaining. I can understand where people are coming from. A lot of Saudi girls who studied abroad returned home and did not freely travel afterwards. Also, all the propaganda surrounding Saudi women and their rights could lead to such assumption.
It is true. A Saudi woman cannot leave Saudi without her male guardian’s permission no matter how old she is or her social status. A Saudi woman’s life revolves around the openness of her guardian. This is the key to the Saudi woman’s freedom. It is sad, scary and super hard. I know many girls who are in situations where they cannot even travel to further their education because their fathers or husbands would not give them exit permission. Some are fearful for their daughters /wives safety and others are just control freaks. Keep in mind this is only a cultural practice and not religious and a lot of the Saudi rules and laws are based on the old Arabian culture.
Thankfully, many Saudi women are lucky enough to be brought up in better conditions than the above, where they come from educated families with understanding parents who trust them and encourage their travels. I am very thankful that my family is that type. Although my family is still very conservative, they found some middle grounds to make me happy and be comfortable with my travels. I was not allowed to travel by myself when I was a teenager. My travelling started for educational purposes only and even then I was accompanied with a male guardian until I was twenty-three when I moved to the UK. My family still did not abandon me and a family member will come to check up on me every once in a while. Through the past years, I had to prove to my parents I was worth the trust and the travel freedom. I did that through making them proud of me and my actions and education. I also communicate with my family daily and give them updates, which give them great comfort. Now, I am over 25 and finally able to travel freely *MashAllah*.
Travelling is not the easiest thing for Saudi women to do, but at least it is getting better. Many ladies are doing it on their own and with friends, but not many of them blog about it that is why not many people are familiar with the concept of Saudi Female travellers, but it is happening! :)