Saudi Arabia to open luxury beach resort where women can wear bikinis instead of burkhas

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Saudi Arabia is known for its extremely conservative outlook and laws towards women and women’s dress, but it seems there might soon be some respite. Going by recent reports, the country’s new heir to the throne Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced plans of opening a new luxury Red Sea resort on a stretch of Saudi Arabia’s northwest coastline, where women will be allowed to wear whatever they like. The resort, which will be a kind of “semi-autonomous” destination, will relax the strict norms of women’s dressing, so they can finally wear a bikini to the beach, if that’s what they want.

A Telegraph report quoted the government saying that the resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards”. This is said to be in a bid to turn the country into a tourist hub, akin to Dubai, where women are allowed to wear bikinis on the beach, making it a preferred Middle Eastern destination for international travellers. The Prince is reportedly hopes that once business picks up, tourism would lessen the dependence on oil in the economy.

Tourists would also not need a visa to travel to the destination, and the resort will offer activities such as parachuting, trekking and rock climbing. The Sun reports that the Red Sea project will also include diving attractions and a nature reserve, with some areas resembling the luxury hotels, islands and lagoons of the Maldives. This is aside from the usual fare of offerings for luxury travellers, such as wellness spas, along side the options to spot rare wildlife such as Arabian leopards and falcons at a nature reserve. There is also the UNESCO World Heritage site of the ancient ruins of Mada’in Saleh.

A statement reportedly said that construction is scheduled to start in 2019, the first phase is expected to be completed by 2022. It hopes to host a million visitors annually by 2035.

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