Cycling in Jeddah: Saudi women embrace change

It’s not like I want to drive just because I want to drive. It’s a need. Amirah A-Turkistani
Updated 10 April 2018
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Cycling in Jeddah: Saudi women embrace change

  • Riding in public was unthinkable at the time in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia is now changing by the day
JEDDAH: When Amirah A-Turkistani left Boston in 2015 after earning a graduate degree, friends mocked her decision to ship her beloved pistachio-colored bicycle back home to Saudi Arabia.
“They told me, ‘What will you do with it in Jeddah, hang it on the wall?’” she laughed, referring to her hometown on the Red Sea coast.
Riding in public was unthinkable at the time in the Kingdom, where religious police patrolled public spaces to enforce modest dress, prayer-time store closures and the mixing of unrelated men and women.
Fast forward three years and Amirah is riding regularly on the seaside corniche, alone or with her husband and children.
On the bike, the 30-year-old wears an abaya, the loose-fitting, full-length robe symbolic of religious faith and still required public dress for Saudi women.
But instead of traditional black, she chooses from a range of pastels she designed herself, trimmed with lace and sporting patches of bright colors.
“Jeddah today isn’t the same as Jeddah five, six years ago,” she said. 
“The scrutiny on clothes (has eased), there’s more places to go, working opportunities for women are the same as for men.”
Saudi Arabia is now changing by the day.
Under a reform program aimed at modernizing the kingdom and transforming its economy away from oil, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has eased social restrictions, sponsoring public concerts and ending a nearly 40-year ban on commercial cinemas.
The government has also announced plans to allow women to drive cars starting this summer, and Amirah is raring to hit the road.
“It’s not like I want to drive just because I want to drive,” she said. “It’s a need.”
The mother of two has a full-time job teaching graphic design at Jeddah International College and freelances on the side. Selling her homemade abayas brings her fulfilment and a little extra income.
Fluent in English, Arabic and Turkish and trained in ballet, Amirah is part of a young generation of Saudi women seizing new opportunities in spite of a guardianship system that still requires women to have a male relative’s approval for certain key decisions like traveling abroad.
In her spare time, she does yoga and trains at a Crossfit studio.
Yet she realizes that not all women in this country of 32 million have the same opportunities.
“There’s a change, that’s true, but I’m talking about something very minuscule,” she said. “I don’t know about other places, other cities. I’m just talking about Jeddah,” she said.


Leading monitor of crucial events in the Saudi Arabia for 100 years: Umm Al-Qura newspaper

Umm Al-Qura was the first newspaper to be published during the time of Saudi Arabia's founder.
Updated 23 min 14 sec ago
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Leading monitor of crucial events in the Saudi Arabia for 100 years: Umm Al-Qura newspaper

  • It was the first newspaper to be issued at the time of the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz
  • Al-Ahmadi clarified that the newspaper’s first issue was published in December 1924

MAKKAH: It is considered one of the most important and prestigious Saudi Arabian newspapers. 

It has witnessed crucial decisions in the country, observed the history of the region throughout a century, recording details of life in the Kingdom becoming a reference for historical decisions and events.

Umm Al-Qura’s Editor in Chief Abdullah Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper has the support and supervision of Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, who has harnessed all the resources for its modern launch. Al-Ahmadi clarified that the newspaper’s first issue was published in December 1924.

It was the first newspaper to be issued at the time of the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz. The headline in the first issue of the newspaper was “The Makkah Declaration,” and this story was accompanied by news and official statements.

Al-Ahmadi said that the paper continued its coverage during World War II, although its presses did stop for a period of up to eight weeks in 1924 before King Abdul Aziz ordered paper to be imported and printing to resume.

Umm Al-Qura’s first editor in chief was Sheikh Yusuf Yassin, who was followed by Rushdi Malhas. Both figures held diplomatic positions during King Abdul Aziz’s reign, along with Mohammed Saeed Abdul Maksoud, Fouad Shaker and Abdul Quddus Al-Ansari.

Al-Ahmadi added that the newspaper has monitored the personal stories of the Kingdom’s kings, giving precise details of the historical and political events of the last century. He added that it has the full Saudi archive and it has become a historical reference for history, the economy and politics.

Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper was a combination of news, sports and social events during 30 years of its foundation. It had adverts on some pages, reflecting the region’s identity and local, economic and cognitive dimensions.

Al-Ahmadi said that with its launch, the newspaper formed the memory, aspirations and ambitions of Saudi Arabia. It was the only media platform in which the world explored the local news, along with the cultural, educational and economic news. 

It covered their advocacy of the crucial decisions — notably the Palestinian cause that Saudi Arabia has defended since the time of its founder.

Umm Al-Qura’s editor in chief said his main concern, along with his former colleagues in the newspaper’s management, was its development and relaunch, pointing out that a number of challenges have been overcome. 

The newspaper has been developed across the board — from layout and content to its brand logo and colors, he said.

Al-Ahmadi added that new and modern printers have been provided, and the newspaper has improved in line with technical and modern changes. 

He said the government also helped restore the back issues damaged by moths.

The operation was carried out by specialized experts who supervised the whole operation to protect the issues from getting lost. All issues were archived online and missing issues are being updated, he added.

Al-Ahmadi said that the newspaper’s website will provide a digital media platform for the documentation process, giving integrated information about the newspaper.

Al-Ahmadi said the newspaper has a website archive for researchers and academics. 

He added that a large number of master’s and doctorate degrees as well as surveys took place with the help of the newspaper that has become a historic reference for scholars and researchers.