Women at Saudi soccer games for first time

The New Khaliji

The New Khaliji

In October past year the government approved plans to start issuing tourist visas for the country in a bid to boost the tourism sector, develop tourism and heritage services and attractions, and reduce the seasonal nature of global tourism, with tourists overwhelmingly visiting for Hajj and Umrah. The first movie theatres are expected to open in March.

Forget Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, the biggest move in the world of football this month will come on Friday (Jan 12) as women travel inside a Saudi Arabian stadium to watch a professional game from the stands for the first time in the country's history.

The women, however, had to enter through designated turnstiles for women and families. Stadiums will also have separate cafes and prayer rooms for women.

While many have welcomed the decision, others have spoken out against it.

Powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its global image. An Arabic hashtag on Twitter about women entering stadiums had more than 50,000 tweets by mid-day.

Careem is working to add a new "Captinah" button to its app exclusively for female riders and families that would allow them to choose women chauffeurs once the royal order is implemented.

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The showroom opened on Thursday at Le Mall in Jeddah by a Saudi private company, where it offers a wide selection of vehicle makes and models, and is staffed by women only.

Women will also attend a game on Saturday in the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, as well as a game on Thursday in the city of Dammam.

The kingdom's stadium had not been built with women in mind, so modifications were made so that they could attend matches. The government spent lavishly on the stadiums in an effort to appease young Saudis and provide spaces for fans eager to cheer on local clubs, as well as hold national parades and ceremonies. We have been waiting for a long time and this is a new feeling for everyone.

Over the years, though, there have been some exceptions for foreign women.

Before the ban is lifted in June, women continue to face arrest and prison time for driving cars.

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