A win on the pitch, and in the stands as women enter Saudi stadium after ban lifted

Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahli attend their team’s match against Al-Batin in the Saudi Pro League. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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A win on the pitch, and in the stands as women enter Saudi stadium after ban lifted

JEDDAH: A historic Friday evening at King Abdullah Sports City stadium saw Jeddah-based football club Al-Ahli host Al-Batin in a Saudi Pro League meeting.
While the game itself was entertaining, it was always going to be eclipsed by the monumental occasion of it being the first match in Saudi football history in which women were allowed in the stands.
The stadium — also known as “Al-Jawhara,” or “The Jewel” — is the largest football stadium in Jeddah with a maximum capacity of over 62,000.
It was certainly a fitting venue to host female fans on the reserved fifth-tier stadium level overlooking the pitch. Facilities included air-conditioned prayer rooms, concession stands, restrooms, and even designated play areas for children. It was all managed by female stadium staff and volunteers.
The vibrant and cheerful emotions resonated throughout the night as passionate and empowered female fans cheered and took part in the buzzing atmosphere that a football match brings.
Sara J., a recent Saudi graduate from Northeastern University, said: “This is wonderful for us Saudi women, and I am sure there is more to come. A diverse and inclusive society will only serve as the base to positive progression for Vision 2030.”
She was referring to the ambitious reform program underway in the Kingdom, in which a boost to entertainment facilities and the greater involvement of women in the economy are key parts.
During half-time, local Al-Ahli supporter Rayan K., explained how he always hoped this day would come.
“Our whole family supports Al-Ittihad, except me and my sister who support Al-Ahli,” he said. “We always try to watch the games together. I always feel bad leaving to watch some games in the stadium knowing that she can’t experience this special atmosphere. I always said ‘one day’ and now this is that day. It makes me so happy and proud that she can finally experience the excitement and drama of watching these games first hand.”
Even the most focused male fan would be hard-pressed not to notice the genuine glee that erupted from women in the crowd when Muhannad Assiri opened the scoring for Al-Ahli in only the second minute of play, catching the Al-Batin defenders on their heels.
Another Saudi woman who attended the game gave her thoughts as the night drew to a close. Lana N., a fitness instructor based in Jeddah, had nothing but praise for the inclusion of granting women access to stadiums: “This was my first football match that I’ve ever attended, and it has been such a fun experience! I’ll always remember tonight. I salute our government for granting us these rights, and I can’t wait to attend again next week!”
The match concluded with Al-Ahli crushing Al-Batin 5-0, but the real winners were the women in the stands. Large number of women showed up proudly, were enthusiastic in their support, and were thoroughly entertained. Tonight was their night.


Sakani program to add 11,000 homes in Jeddah

The Housing Ministry has deals with two real-estate companies. (Reuters/File)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Sakani program to add 11,000 homes in Jeddah

  • The first project, Rawabi Hijaz, is on private-sector land and will includes 9,502 units
  • The Ministry stressed its keenness to work with qualified developers to add to housing stock

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Housing has signed agreements with two real-estate development companies to add more than 11,000 homes in Jeddah for the Sakani program. The deals were signed on October 15 during an event announcing the program’s 10th batch of beneficiaries.
The first project, Rawabi Hijaz, is on private-sector land and will includes 9,502 units, while the second, Jeddah airport housing, is on land owned by the Ministry and will includes 2,203 units.
The agreements were signed in the presence of Minister of Housing Majid bin Abdullah Al-Hugail, National Housing Company CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Bati, and officials from the ministry and the Real Estate Development Fund. They follow previous agreements signed by the Ministry of Housing with a number of developers to build housing in various regions of the Kingdom. Sixty projects providing more than 90,000 diverse homes, with prices ranging from SR250,000 to SR750,000 have already been launched.
The Ministry stressed its keenness to work with qualified developers to add to housing stock and support supply in the sector, to encourage competition between companies to meet the needs of citizens in a way that suits local markets and ensures the provision of continued maintenance services for the residential units.
“The real-estate developers with whom we signed contribute along with the Ministry to the service of citizens in order to provide a suitable residential environment on the levels of prices and specifications, while presenting the beneficiaries with the guarantees needed,” the Ministry said.
“These projects will be completed and handed over to the beneficiaries within a period not exceeding three years. These housing projects are integrated in terms of services and public facilities. They include mosques, public parks and green areas as well as government buildings.”