The car's pink and so is the tie, lipstick and flower in the hair of the woman who's driving it. Welcome to the new Beirut taxis. That is, if you're female. Men are strictly banned.

The idea was first launched in the UK in 2006 by Pink Ladies Cabs. The 100% female driving squad is charged with getting party-goers home safely once the bars have closed. Now, the concept has arrived in the Middle East. Nayaghi taxi company rolled out three pink Peugeots under the name "Banet Taxis" (girl taxis) on Tuesday.

Beirut's Banet taxis

Photos via Lebanese channel OTV and posted on this forum.

"In my opinion it's also a good excuse for men to go out separately from their wives"

Paul Chahine is a businessman from Beirut.

We're seeing increasing numbers of tourists from more conservative Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, and the tourist industry here is trying to adapt to their customs. This idea must have come out of that. [The Lebanese tourism minister, who supported the initiative, admitted that the main reason for setting it up was to satisfy women visiting from the Gulf, who didn't want to travel with men]. In my opinion it's also a good excuse for men to go out separately from their wives."

"This is a money-making initiative; from a women’s rights point of view it’s completely ridiculous"

Yara Harakeh, 23, has just completed her studies in biochemistry and is currently looking for a job.

The only positive thing about ‘Banet Taxis' is that for the first time ever, we're seeing women taxi drivers in Beirut! However, I don't like this idea at all. It's sexual discrimination. We women demand the same rights as men but our objective is not to divide the two communities. If we're asking to share the same things as men, then we should also be taking taxis with them. This is a money-making initiative; from a women's rights point of view it's completely ridiculous."