A Saudi Arabian princess behind the wheel of a car on a magazine cover is a huge deal. Here's why.

The buzzed-about cover shot. (Photo: Vogue Arabia)

The June Vogue Arabia cover — featuring Her Royal Highness Princess Hayfa Bint Abdullah Al Saud poised to drive a red convertible — might not cause a commotion in the West. But in Saudi Arabia, where women have long been banned from driving a car, the cover is monumental. That ban lifts on June 24, though, and this latest issue is here to celebrate.


The princess was photographed in an elegant flowing white ensemble and matching headscarf as she posed in the driver’s seat of the vintage red 1980s Mercedes-Benz 450SL. And she has got a hand on the steering wheel, making a clear statement that she is ready to help drive her country forward.


The decision to allow Saudi Arabia’s 16 million women to drive comes as part of a series of dramatic changes pushed for by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s 32-year-old son, who has fought for for major changes pertaining to women’s rights — from allowing women to serve in the military to the country’s criminalization of sexual harassment.

The latest issue of Vogue Arabia is a nod to the “trailblazing women of Saudi Arabia.” In her interview with the magazine, Princess Hayfa opens up about being an artist, a mother of three, and a witness to her country’s changes. 

“There are some conservatives who fear change. For many, it is all they have known. Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm,” she says. “It is easy to comment on other people’s societies and think that your own society is superior, but the Western world must remember that each country is specific and unique. We have strengths and weaknesses but, invariably, it’s our culture, and it’s better to try to understand it than to judge it.”

On social media, the cover is getting praised for its forward-moving image.

But not everyone feels the same way, with some even calling it “insensitive.”

 

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