The end of male-only driving is seen as part of gradual cultural changes led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the next in line to the throne.
But allowing women to drive — like many changes in the ultraconservative kingdom — has been met with opposition from some conservatives and underscores deeper internal tensions over the crown prince’s challenges to the old order.
Some women immediately got behind the wheel in their first legal road trips as drivers in the kingdom.
“I thought I would never witness this day,” said one of the many social media posts hours after the law took effect. “I’m incredibly happy Congratulations girls we did it.”
As the first female drivers took to the road in the eastern city of Khobar, onlookers cheered as police looked on. “We are ready, and it will totally change our life,” Samira al-Ghamdi, a 47-year-old psychologist from Jiddah, told Al Jazeera. She was one of the first women issued a license under the new law.
A handful of men took part in the festivities, as well.
Amanda Erickson contributed to this report.