After more than a decade living abroad, horse trainer Dana Al Gosaibi returned to Saudi Arabia hoping to open her own stables.
Although horses have been an integral part of culture in Saudi Arabia, as well as other Arab countries, adopting equestrianism as a hobby has been — like sports in general in the ultraconservative Gulf kingdom — fairly challenging for women.
In fact, as far as horse riding is concerned, there’s a widely held belief in the country that women, especially “unmarried” ones, should not ride horses because they might lose her virginity,” Al Gosaibi told AFP in an interview.
However, she feels times are changing for the better in the wake of “Vision 2030” — a new economic plan that aims to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil vision for the future and also declares Saudi women, half of the country’s population, to be a “great asset.”
"I came back and I saw all these women working as cashiers, in sales and in offices,” she added.
It’s indeed a breakthrough in a country like Saudi Arabia where women, in this day and age, are not allowed to move inside and outside the country without the permission of their male guardians. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive cars.
The reasons behind the ban on women drivers are as ridiculous as the one involving a woman’s virginity and horse riding.
A Saudi scholar once proclaimed driving cars might harm women’s ovaries and, by extension, future generations. (For real.)
Al Gosaibi has a solution: "Let women ride horses!"
The horse trainer also noted how forbidding women from driving or riding is a cultural prohibition instead of a religious one.
She cited the example of the time of Islamic Prophet Muhammad when women rode horses and even fought on the battle field with freedom.
"You can’t be stuck forever in these old ways of thinking," she further told. "Women are becoming stronger and they have a voice."