Drivers of Change: The Middle East's Women-Driven Taxis
April 22, 2016
There’s a debate brewing throughout the Middle East about women getting behind the wheel—of taxis, that is.
Women-driven taxis took to the streets of the UAE more than five years ago. In both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, established cab companies have subtly added pink and lavender to cab designs and employ a team of female drivers to serve women and children. They satisfy some conservative locals’ desire for gender separation.
Last September a new limo service launched in Egypt, explicitly advertising its 20 rose and grey cars as a haven from male harassment. The elegantly decorated cars from “Pink Taxi” are fully equipped with tracking devices, cameras, and panic buttons. At a price more than double that of a normal cab, they are also a luxury few can afford.
A student startup in Jordan takes a more political approach. With an avowed commitment to social change, the founder says she created her service in order to boost women’s participation in public life. She sees her mission as providing affordable female-specific transportation for night-shift workers and students with long commutes. She eschews pink-centric branding as perpetuating stereotypes that she seeks to challenge, and her first driver is a former member of the national women’s soccer team. One of Amman’s leading cab companies saw its own business opportunity in the idea. Last month, it rolled out 20 women-driven taxis at competitive prices.
The Arab world may soon see more female cabbies on the road. Looking closely, though, they may be headed in very different directions.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.