Khobar (Saudi Arabia) – Hunched over platters of dates and Arabic coffee, Saudi women raring to drive once a government ban ends next June signed up for another revolution —- to be the kingdom’s first female cab drivers.

King Salman last month decreed that women will be allowed driving permits, a historic reform that could put not just millions of women behind the wheel but potentially many more into the workforce.

This week, the company invited AFP to its first recruitment session in the coastal city of Khobar, which attracted a diverse crowd – from housewives to working women – who already have foreign driving licences.

The firm plans to add a new “Captinah” button to the app next June that would allow customers to choose women chauffeurs.The option will only be available to other women and families, Careem spokesman Murtadha Alalawi said.

“This is a rite of passage for women,” said Sarah Algwaiz, director of the women chauffeurs program at Careem, referring to the reform.

For decades, hardliners cited austere Islamic interpretations to justify the ban, with some maintaining women lack the intelligence to drive and that allowing them to would promote promiscuity.

An employee of Careem, a car booking service, talks during a training session for new female drivers at their Saudi offices in Khobar City on October 10, 2017. © AFP FAYEZ NURELDINE

© AFP FAYEZ NURELDINE – An employee of Careem, a car booking service, talks during a training session for new female drivers at their Saudi offices in Khobar City on October 10, 2017