Saudi Arabia set to scrap male guardian rule for Saudi females studying abroad: Senior diplomat

The end of the male guardian rule is likely to encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 09 August 2019

Saudi Arabia set to scrap male guardian rule for Saudi females studying abroad: Senior diplomat

  • Ending the male guardian rule would encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is poised to abolish the legal requirement for a male guardian to accompany females during scholarship periods abroad, a top diplomat has revealed.

Saudi Cultural Attaché to the US Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa told Arab News on Thursday that the Ministry of Education was set to scrap the mahram (guardian) clause but said the move was yet to be officially confirmed.

Ending the male guardian rule would encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities, he said, especially those who had missed the opportunity for a scholarship because of the clause.

Many female students who travel to US educational institutions with a male guardian currently receive extra allowances to help cover rent and other expenses.

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In April 2019, the number of Saudi women studying abroad had reached 30,617, with the number of male students topping 55,440, according to the Saudi Ministry of Education.

If the changes take place, Al-Issa said it would be unlikely that housing payments would rise.

“I don’t think that there will be an increase in allowance for females. I also believe that being accompanied by a legal male guardian might be optional for them,” he added.

Under the planned new rules, female students already on university courses in the US with an accompanying male guardian will have the option to continue with the arrangement if they wish, said Al-Issa.

“In fact, the Saudi Cultural Mission is flexible and had exempted some students from the presence of the male guardian in the past, in case they face difficulties, especially for females who are completing their higher studies or those who have an official approval from their male guardians.”


LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Amadeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Amadeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Amadeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Amadeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.