Saudi women attend soccer match for first time

Saudi and Bahraini Interior Ministers during an official session of talks. BNA

Women aged 25 and older will soon be able to visit Saudi Arabia without being required to have a chaperone, according to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

As cinemas prepare to make a comeback in Saudi Arabia, Cinema 70, the kingdom's first cinema brand, will be presenting a series of worldwide family movies over the next six days of this month.

The first stadium to open its doors to women will be in the Red Sea city of Jiddah for a match between Saudi soccer teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin later on Friday evening.

Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is King Salman's son and heir, is seen as the driving force behind these changes.

The government's General Sports Authority said this week that three stadiums had so far been modified to accommodate women through the addition of private sections for women and their male relatives, female bathrooms and even prayer areas.

The kingdom, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, has long barred them from sports arenas through strict rules that keep the sexes apart in public.

Women will also be allowed to attend a match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh and on January 18 in the eastern city of Dammam.

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These changes come as part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's ambitious post-oil economy plan which hopes to increase participation of women in the workforce and diversify the country's industries.

The reform is in line with the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme that seeks to elevate women to almost one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 percent now.

"I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums..."

"Because I am close to the events, I want to clarify an important point", Abdullah bin Saud said in the recording. "It's a day of happiness and joy".

Many women excited about the new ability to watch live games - as well as men opposed to this - took to social media on Friday, writing under the Arabic hash tags #FamiliesEnteringStadiums and #ThePeopleWelcomeWomenEnteringStadiums.

Some clubs are offering special abayas - traditional head-to-toe robes for Saudi women - in their teams' colours.

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