DAVOS, Switzerland — The most prominent princess in Saudi Arabia's royal family said yesterday that if she could change one thing about her country, she would let women drive — a rare and direct challenge to the driving ban imposed by the kingdom's ruling male elite.
The remarks from Princess Lolwah Al-Faisal, 59, daughter of a former Saudi king and sister of the current foreign minister, came at the World Economic Forum — a gathering known for getting world leaders to engage in frank, often off-the-record dialogue without fear of criticism.
Ms. Faisal, however, spoke at a public session on promoting religious tolerance. The moderator, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, asked panelists at one point to "self-criticize" and say what they would change to promote greater interfaith understanding.
Turning to the princess, he quipped: "What would you do, princess, if you were ‘queen' for a day? I won't tell anyone."
"First thing, I'd let women drive," Ms. Faisal said. Her comments show that while Saudi Arabia often presents a united front to the outside world, different opinions and vigorous debate exist in private.