Saudi women attend football game for the first time
Jeddah: Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match yesterday, as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.
The new measure comes after Riyadh, long known for imposing harsh restrictions on women, announced it was lifting a ban prohibiting them from driving, as well as reopening cinemas.
Women supporters, all wearing the traditional black abaya robe, arrived well ahead of yesterday's kick-off in the Jeddah stadium, some in sunglasses and others with loose-fitting veils.
The Islamic kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since last year.
The first football match women are being allowed to attend is a clash between Saudi Premier League clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah's Pearl stadium.
Glass panels were set up to separate men supporters from the women and family section of the stadium.
Saleh al-Ziadi brought his three daughters to the game.
"My daughters still don't believe this is happening. They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium," he said.
Enthusiasm for the historic encounter began well before the scheduled 8:00 pm kick-off.
Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, said she was proud and looking forward to the match.
"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future. I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change," she said.
Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, called Friday a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes".
"I am proud and extremely happy for this development and for the kingdom's moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries," she said.