FILE - In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.  Saudi Arabia says it will allow women to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The kingdom, which announced the change on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
In September 2017 women were given the right to drive in Saudi Arabia following an order from King Salman. Hasan Jamali / AP

The debate on abayas marks Saudi Arabia's ongoing transformation

The remarks this week by a prominent Saudi cleric on the wearing of the abaya are the latest sign of the kingdom's ongoing transformation. Much like the UAE, Riyadh is taking steps to diversify and modernise its oil-based economy with the Vision 2030 plan. Simultaneously, Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, has spearheaded a tranche of social reforms that will alter life in the kingdom for years to come. Next month commercial cinemas will reopen after a three-decade ban. Visitor restrictions will be lifted, transforming the Red Sea coast into an upscale tourist destination. Meanwhile a sweeping anti-corruption drive in the country raising $106 billion has boosted investor confidence. Amid news of an upcoming Saudi Aramco IPO, the country is pumping billions into renewable energy. It has certainly been a groundbreaking year in the kingdom.

One group that has benefited greatly from the transformation have been Saudi women. Last September, the lifting of a female driving ban was welcomed. That same month, women were permitted to participate in public National Day celebrations in a stadium in Riyadh for the first time. Shortly thereafter, Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji filled a stadium for the first public concert by a female artist. Saudi women can now attend football matches. In the most recent development, Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq – a member of the country's highest religious body – said publicly this week that Saudi women should not have to wear the abaya robe, as current law demands. "More than 90 per cent of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world do not wear abayas," he said. "So we should not force people to wear abayas." He was backed up by other clerics on social media. If the law changes, many women for whom the abaya holds cultural and religious resonance will no doubt still choose to wear it. Yet the implications for female choice that Sheikh Abdullah's remarks hold are praiseworthy.

As has been frequently observed on these pages, King Salman and his Crown Prince have met words with deeds. With 70 per cent of Saudi citizens young and technologically savvy, the latest raft of social reforms are wise. And while there is still work to do, there is little doubt that the consequences of Saudi liberalisation will be profound.

EA Sports FC 24

Developer: EA Vancouver, EA Romania
Publisher: EA Sports
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 3.5/5


Director: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Ajay Devgn, R. Madhavan, Jyothika, Janaki Bodiwala
Rating: 3/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Friday's schedule at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

GP3 qualifying, 10:15am

Formula 2, practice 11:30am

Formula 1, first practice, 1pm

GP3 qualifying session, 3.10pm

Formula 1 second practice, 5pm

Formula 2 qualifying, 7pm

Dates for the diary

To mark Bodytree’s 10th anniversary, the coming season will be filled with celebratory activities:

  • September 21 Anyone interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor can sign up for a 250-hour course in Yoga Teacher Training with Jacquelene Sadek. It begins on September 21 and will take place over the course of six weekends.
  • October 18 to 21 International yoga instructor, Yogi Nora, will be visiting Bodytree and offering classes.
  • October 26 to November 4 International pilates instructor Courtney Miller will be on hand at the studio, offering classes.
  • November 9 Bodytree is hosting a party to celebrate turning 10, and everyone is invited. Expect a day full of free classes on the grounds of the studio.
  • December 11 Yogeswari, an advanced certified Jivamukti teacher, will be visiting the studio.
  • February 2, 2018 Bodytree will host its 4th annual yoga market.

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