Since schools reopened in Saudi Arabia as well, the streets have been much more lively in the morning. When I find it a little harder to get out of bed, I show up at our building entrance, where several pairs of hungry cat eyes are already waiting for me, a few minutes later than usual.
At that time, I can also expect to see an audience of curious children with their parents who sway even sleepier than me through our neighborhood making their way to their cars parked on the street.
Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to these spectators, I prefer to focus on feeding my felines. This time, however, I found myself in the role of the observer, sitting on the mosque steps. Parked cars were lined up on the stage in front of me, and a young man dressed in a traditional white jalabíya, about 12 years old, came to the fore.
He opens the car door and first puts his school bag in the passenger seat. Then he settles himself in the driver’s seat and starts the engine. I watch in wonder. A hint of doubt still allows me to believe that the boy might be waiting for his father, and merely cooling the car with air conditioning until his arrival.
The next moment the young gentleman closes the door and drives off, soon leaving our home street. After I managed to pick my jaw off the ground, I realize what I just witnessed. Young Saudi just drove himself to school alone.
I’ve heard about how boys behind the wheel are an everyday occurrence in Saudi Arabia. But seeing one with your own eyes is a whole different story.