Jeddah, Saudi Arabia According to Saudi Asthma, spending a day at sea with her boyfriend in her extreme conservative country is almost unthinkable. But today, on a beach in the west of the kingdom, this 32-year-old woman is happy to be able to live a “normal” life.
“I’m glad to be on the beach near Jetta. It was a dream come true, ”she said, still wearing a wet T-shirt and a wet swimsuit.
For four years, the rich oil government, led by Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, has been softening its harsh and ultra-conservative image in the campaign for economic and social reforms.
Women are allowed to drive, theaters are reopened and co-education is allowed during sports or music events.
But that revelation is accompanied by a relentless lockout against critics of the prince’s power, and many women rights activists have been detained or are at shortcuts to justice.
On the Pure Beach, a mixed beach located a hundred kilometers from Jeddah, a large city in the west of the kingdom famous for being the most open part of the country, you can forget about being in Saudi Arabia.
According to Asma, the opening of Pure Beach in August is a sign that “life is returning to normal” in this country: “before it”.
For a ticket of 300 riyals (approximately C $ 85), women can swim in the turquoise waters of the Red Sea in bikinis. Men and women can smoke shisha in the white sand or walk their pets there. But alcohol consumption is officially banned in Saudi Arabia.
As is often the case in other places like hotels, it is not necessary to issue a marriage certificate to the couple before the wedding. But, to ensure that everyone’s privacy is respected, devotees are asked to leave their mobile phones at the entrance, explains an official in the new city of King Abdullah Economic City, where Pure Beach is located.
After sunset, the beach becomes an open-air nightclub where dancers dance to the tune of Western music. Near them, a couple kisses.
“I was amazed at this kind of freedom and transparency. It’s like it’s in the United States,” said AFP Mohamed Saleh, an engineer who recently returned to the country after ten years in the United States.
“I never imagined attending a beach party in Saudi Arabia,” he continues.
Saudi Arabia previously had to travel abroad to the Middle East or Europe to enjoy this kind of freedom.
“A few years ago, we were not allowed to listen to music and go to the beach, so it was a paradise for us,” says Hudil Omar, an Egyptian who grew up in Saudi Arabia.
Pure Beach is not only for the residents of the country, but also seeks to attract tourists, Bilal Saudi, the event manager at King Abdullah Economic City, told AFP.
Saudi Arabia issued its first tourist visas in 2019 and announced that it intends to attract 30 million tourists each year by 2030. Tourism development is one of the pillars of “Vision 2030”, an ambitious reform program initiated by the Crown Prince. Reduce the dependence of the Saudi economy on oil.
“I have a feeling I no longer have to go abroad and have fun because everything is available here now,” the young Saudi businessman in a swimsuit and T-revealing shirt told AFP Tima.
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