Skip to comments.On a fast track [Muslim Woman Driver]
Posted on 02/23/2005 8:15:11 PM PST by Alouette
She wears a traditional black abaya cloak to work and prays five times a day, but religion hasn't stopped Marwa Al-Eifa of Dubai from becoming the fastest female driver in the United Arab Emirates.
The 25-year-old marketing executive won first place at the first international women's rally car race held in Dubai earlier this month. Eifa's parents thought little of the rally until they suddenly saw their daughter on the evening news, a large trophy in her hand. "My parents were so proud," she said.
Her father's pride is all the more significant because he is a citizen of Saudi Arabia, a country which forbids females from driving. Eifa is also a Saudi citizen, although she has never stepped foot in that country.
Eifa, who like more than 80 percent of UAE residents does not hold citizenship, considers herself "an international Arabic Muslim citizen." She is thankful to have been raised in the emirate of Dubai, where her family has made their home.
"If I were asked to live in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn't be able to do it," says Eifa, whose favorite car is a 911 GT2 Porsche.
"I always say that if I were to leave the UAE, it would only be to go to London or America."
For young women like Eifa, the UAE is an oasis of freedom compared to the country whose passport she holds. A federation of seven city-states, the UAE is the only one in the region that gives her the liberty as a woman to live the life she wants. It is also a booming regional financial hub.
So it comes as no surprise to Eifa that the UAE is the first country to hold a car rally race for women.
The young racer got her UAE driving license (she passed the exam on the first try) at the age of 18, and her black belt in karate not long afterwards.
Eifa has hopes other Arab women will get involved in sports. "I wish they would participate in any sport they can," she says.
But she recognizes that she's different from other girls. "[People] always say I'm a guy," she says. "But I like dressing up and wearing makeup. I don't like talking about shopping, though. You could say I'm not an air-headed girl. I have a strong personality. I'm a woman but I'm strong and I've always wanted to prove to everyone that I can do everything."
In a sense, Eifa's winning a trophy in a car race for women is parallel to the UAE's booming success at developing itself as an international financial center and not just an exporter of oil.
The UAE's oil resources are limited. Its former president, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, knew he had to develop his country without relying on the reserves. So he reinvested oil revenues back into the country's economy, health services and education, while encouraging women to be active and educated working members of society. Under his skillful leadership, the country was transformed from a traditional desert society into a modern regional financial center.
Dubai is one of the UAE's most booming city-states. It has created a Media City, an E-Commerce City and is now creating a Health City. One of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Burj Al-Arab, sits regally in Dubai. It attracts the wealthiest tourists and businessmen in the world, who are flown to the hotel from the airport in the hotel helicopter and chauffeured around town in hotel Rolls Royces.
In 2003, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund held their annual meetings in Dubai. More than 1 million of the UAE's 3.1 million residents have an Internet connection. The average resident earns a higher income than the average person in the United Kingdom.
By promoting religious tolerance and equality, especially for women, Zayed attracted many foreign investors. He allowed foreigners to buy property and have fully-owned businesses in free-trade zones. That's what attracted families like Eifa's to the Emirates.
"Nothing delights me more than seeing a woman take her distinctive position in society," Zayed was quoted as saying. "Nothing should hinder her progress. Like men, women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications."
But it wasn't until after Zayed's death that the UAE got its first female minister. She holds, however, the highest ranking portfolio of any other woman minister in the region: Planning and Development. This appointment came after the neighboring Gulf states of Oman (3), Bahrain (1) and Qatar (1) appointed theirs. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have yet to have any women in their governments.
Women in the UAE received equal rights before the law as early as 1971, when the UAE came into existence as a federation of the seven city-states. The same year, the constitution also gave women the right to practice the profession of their choice. Emirati women were encouraged to get an education, and today they have a higher literacy rate than men. Zayed passed away in November, but his son carries on his pro-Western vision.
Eifa is the embodiment of that vision.
A professional who is not put off by working in a male-dominated environment, Eifa nevertheless says that women's rights have not changed Arab men completely.
"In the Arab community they diminish the capability of women and what they can do," says Eifa, who received her BA from a local college and made a career in marketing and PR. She works as a business development executive for DubaiLand, a theme park with hotels and rides, which will open in 2007.
She is, however, religious. "I pray five times a day, fast on Ramadan, have good intentions and don't hurt anyone," she says, adding that she is not a saint. "I read the Koran, but at the same time I have fun. It's normal for humans to make mistakes."
Working for the Dubai government, she says, she has to wear an abaya and a scarf on her shoulders "because I have to look formal," she explains. But in her free time, she says, she dresses casually in jeans, T-shirts and skirts.
In Dubai, she points out, it's not compulsory for women to cover their hair. "Here women can even wear bikinis," she says, adding that she doesn't feel comfortable doing so.
Modesty has not kept her from sports, however. Last year she was the captain of her eight-person sports team at her company which took first place out of 10 teams.
As a result, Eifa is in no hurry to get married. "Maybe I'm not ready for the responsibility yet," she says. "I'm happy being alone. There are so many things I want to do. It's not only the car rally, I want to do the endurance race. It's a six-stage horse-riding race. I have already started taking lessons."
But her main goal is simple, and she hopes other Arab women live by it.
"Anything that Arab men think women can't do," she says, "we should 'just do it.' "
Then I read this:
Eifa, who like more than 80 percent of UAE residents does not hold citizenship, considers herself "an international Arabic Muslim citizen."
...and I thought to myself, oh crap. How many people are living here in this country who consider themselves "international Arabic Muslim citizens"?
WARNING: This is a high volume ping list
She wears a Nomex hijab.
"international Arabic Muslim citizens"?
This is real special how do you become one of these?
The "Ocean of Fire!" Taking lessons from Viggo?
How come no "barf alert?"
I knew an American woman, a teacher, who was married to a Saudi (I didn't say smart women)and every summer she would don her burka and travel back in time. Once while descending an escalator, her burka got caught and she tumbled down the stairs. She lay there at the bottom in a heap, three broken ribs, a bad cut on her face and no man stopped to see if she was alright. If fact they just stepped over her!!
And it's not just Arab men that that think women are dirt, it's Arab women. These women truly believe that they are slaves born to serve the high almighty male.
So this women doesn't only have to work to change men's minds but also women's. I say good for her and I hope more women follow her lead. This is all part of the slow move to Democracy.
The only muslim woman driver I've met crashed into my neighbor's house on the corner and caused $30,000 damage to their home.
The car went right through their brick foundation and caused major damage.
I comforted the woman, the best I could, no English skills on her part and her male counterpart had disappeared.
This was in one of the "better" parts of Minneapolis. I came to find out they liked our quieter streets to conduct their informal driving schools.
Not many days before that, some of the same folks nearly mowed down an elderly couple in their yard on the same intersection, but across the street. Luckily, the driver only killed a crab apple tree on the boulevard which stopped the forward movement of the car.
Wait until they put sponsors decals and numbers on the sides
I lived in Riyadh for two years. The only American women I knew who were married to Saudis are the gold-digger types. Although it is aweful how they are treated, I somehow can't stop to chuckle.
Let her come to NASCAR see how she does against Dale Earnhart Jr or Jeff Gorden
Paging NASCAR list
'international Arabic Muslim citizens'
They'd stick out like sore thumbs at Nascar events, But Heck, their cash is as good as anyone else's.
Having a NasCamel race or two would be a sight to behold. ;-)
OH GOOD I hope you got NASCAR ping list rack it LOLOL!
Hey you are right money is language speak for
Like my dad used to say Money talks
Yeah how she would fare against Dale Earnhart Jr or Jeff Gorden or rest of NASCAR racers
That what I want to know
<<< So she won a powder-puff go-cart race competing against other ladies. Isn't that precious! >>>
Rallying is no "powder-puff go-kart race. Have you ever watched one let alone compete in one? I organize one, I have rallied since '79, both as a driver and co-driver. We're not talking boring roundy-round racing here! Rallying is alive and well here in the US, albeit on a smaller scale, thank you very much.
She was a bad diabetic who could never have kids and it seem to start out as true love. (Don't picture Muslim men marrying women who can't reproduce)
But she couldn't hack those Saudi summers and he couldn't seem to live without them. Didn't last.
<< Wait until they put sponsors decals and numbers on the sides >>
Many of the camels are imported from Australia so they can start with Victorian Bitter and Fosters.
[Or Boags if they want to advertise a Real Beer]
"I always say that if I were to leave the UAE, it would only be to go to London or America."
Gentlemen.....start your camels! Zoom-Zoom!