Saudi women takes a new step By


For the first time in history, Saudi Arabia allowed women to spectate a local football match, which took place in the city of Jeddah.

In Saturday's match Al-Hilal drew 1-1 versus Al-Ittihad.

"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future", football fan Lamya Khaled Nasser told AFP.

Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah's Pearl stadium.

Around 7,500 seats in the 62,000-seat King Abdullah Stadium were made available to women and families, according to Saudi sports authorities.

The women entered the King Abdullah Stadium through a special gate, with female security guards wearing orange vests searching the visitors at the entrance.

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Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, called Friday a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes".

The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious project to modernise the Saudi society and boost its economy.

Construction teams had scrambled to build female toilets and line off a women-only parking lot ahead of the game.

The result meant Al-Ahli closed the gap on table toppers Al-Hilal to one point. "With you, the scene is complete". "The Kingdom wants to increase participation of women in the Saudi labor market and other aspects of life", wrote CNN.

Saudi Arabia has always been one of the world's most restrictive places for women, where a combination of religion, social custom and government regulation has dictated what they wear and barred them from driving, holding a range of jobs and traveling as they wish. The showroom carried signs emblazoned with the slogan "Drive and Shop", a play on words in Arabic, using the female form of the verbs.