Starting next year, Saudi Arabia will allow women to attend sporting events for the first time, officials say.
The announcement comes in a series of proposed reforms by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise the Arab state.
Beginning in early 2018, Saudi Arabia will allow women to be present at sports events. The stadiums of Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh are being prepared to accommodate the new spectators, according to the General Sports Authority.
The announcement comes in the context of a broader plan by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise the Arab state and move away from strict Wahhabi Islam. From June 2018, women will also be allowed to drive cars.
The ‘Saudi Vision 2030‘ reform programme, as it is titled, aims to diversify the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil and open the ultra-conservative society to a more moderate form of Islam.
In his speech last Tuesday, Salman told investors in Riyadh:
“We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”
The economic reforms will accompany political reforms in an effort to combat extremism and could have profound implications for the future of the Middle East.