Cherie Blair: Lifting of Saudi ban on women driving ‘superb — but more to be done’

Cherie Blair
Updated 20 October 2017
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Cherie Blair: Lifting of Saudi ban on women driving ‘superb — but more to be done’

SVETI STEFAN, Montenegro: British QC Cherie Blair, in an exclusive interview with Arab News, has said the removal of the Saudi women’s driving ban is “superb news.”
Blair, a prominent human-rights lawyer and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said she believes the lifting of the ban will unleash new potential for women, but that “there is more to be done.”
In a rare interview with the press, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “While it is a positive step, it’s not really just a question of driving — it needs to be about women being able to engage in every level of society.”
Speaking from the islet of Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, where she hosted a talk at The Global Citizen Forum, Blair said that “small changes lead to big changes.”
She added: “When it comes to change, most people are pragmatists — men and women alike.
“Even with men, if you can illustrate that women driving will somehow make their lives better or easier, they think ‘oh, this is good’ and then eventually they even become proud of their wife’s new achievements.
“I’ve seen it happen in other countries. This is how small changes lead to big changes. Step by step.”
Blair added that “leadership is lacking in the world.”
“A diverse range of leadership is very important because the problems we see in the world are just people repeating the same mistakes; people are very frightened about taking a chance,” she said.
The QC and philanthropist bemoaned the fact that just 10 percent of the world’s leaders are female. “It matters because it gives people an image of what a leader looks like,” she said. “When women see other women leading, then we start seeing visible changes and we allow that vision to manifest in women.”
Speaking at the same event, Patrick Basham, head of the Washington-based Democracy Institute think tank told Arab News, “The Saudi economy will benefit from literally empowering women in a physical sense because women will be more mobile in all kinds of ways.
“The rest of world sees this as a small step, a tangible one, but it’s a good example of how you don’t have to change the whole of society overnight. If it’s perceived, particularly by Saudi men, as not having brought the roof down they will be relieved and then it’s a question of ‘what’s the next step?”
Basham said one of the first “small steps” would be allowing women to have more of a voice so that their participation “if not encouraged, is at least accepted, so that the repression of Saudi women will be viewed as something from yesterday but not necessarily of tomorrow.”
A host of thinkers, experts, professionals, and world leaders are gathering for a two-day forum at Sveti Stefan on Oct. 19 and 20 to discuss “Global Citizenship in the Age of Uncertainty.”
The forum was established by businessman and philanthropist Armand Arton in 2012 to advocate for a better understanding of global citizenship, to promote discussion around issues of global significance, and to drive philanthropic activities.


VOX to open first multiplex cinema in Jeddah by December

Updated 17 July 2018
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VOX to open first multiplex cinema in Jeddah by December

  • VOX Cinemas will also open an IMAX theater at the Red Sea Mall, featuring the largest IMAX screen in Saudi Arabia
  • The cinema will feature 12 screens, including three GOLD by Rhodes, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Majid Al-Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer, has announced it will open the first multiplex in Jeddah at the popular shopping destination Red Sea Mall by December.
This announcement marks a major milestone for the company as it begins to deliver on its goal of bringing world-class entertainment to cities across the Kingdom. It is the latest step in VOX Cinemas’ SR2 billion ($0.53 billion) investment plan that will see 600 screens open in the Kingdom over the next five years and a major pillar of a total SR16 billion investment Majid Al-Futtaim is making in Saudi Arabia’s retail and leisure sectors.
Red Sea Mall was strategically selected owing to its status as the most popular shopping destination in the western region. The mall has 145,000 square meters of gross leasable area, and other amenities for the comfort and convenience of visitors, which are projected to hit 18.5 million visitors by the end of 2018.
The cinema will feature 12 screens, including three GOLD by Rhodes, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. GOLD by Rhodes is a new dining concept in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes, with a menu that offers a variety of classic cinema snacks with a fine-dining twist. Saudi cinema guests can order gourmet meals directly to their reclining seats while enjoying movies on digital surround-sound and wall-to-wall high-definition screens. Families can opt for KIDS, a family-friendly concept developed for children where they can watch the latest animations and adventure films in a colorful setting.
VOX Cinemas will also open an IMAX theater at the Red Sea Mall, featuring the largest IMAX screen in the Kingdom. The IMAX Experience will offer movie-goers a highly immersive film experience, allowing them to enjoy the biggest blockbusters with crystal-clear images and powerful sound you can feel.
VOX Cinemas CEO Cameron Mitchell said: “We know that the appetite for world-class movie experiences extends across the country and therefore we’re delighted to announce this latest extension of VOX Cinemas’ footprint into Jeddah.
“This is still just the beginning of the story and we look forward to further exciting announcements in the weeks and months ahead.”
Aidrous Al-Bar, managing director of Red Sea Markets Co., said: “We’re eagerly awaiting the opening of VOX Cinemas in Red Sea Mall. Our aspiration is to provide Jeddah residents and visitors with the most comprehensive retail and entertainment option.”