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.


Saudi envoy highlights Coalition’s support of humanitarian operations in Yemen

Updated 21 September 2018
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Saudi envoy highlights Coalition’s support of humanitarian operations in Yemen

  • UN official briefd on the plans and projects of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen

JEDDAH: Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, Saudi ambassador to Yemen and executive director of the “Isnad” Center for Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations in Yemen, met on Thursday with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths.

During the meeting, Al-Jaber highlighted Saudi Arabia and the coalition states’ support of humanitarian operations in Yemen in light of violations committed by the Houthi militias.

He also briefed the UN official on the plans and projects of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, affirming its support in accordance with three references (Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, outputs of the national dialogue and Security Council Resolution 2216).

Griffiths highlighted his efforts with the Iran-backed Houthi militias to return to the negotiating table.

Earlier, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsin Saleh met with Griffiths. They discussed the latest developments in the Yemeni arena and efforts for peace there.