Thursday 22 February 2018

Saudi luxury resort to allow bikinis

Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Reuters
Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Reuters

Raf Sanchez

Saudi Arabia's new heir to the throne has announced plans for a beach resort where women will be allowed to wear bikinis instead of being forced to cover up.

As part of his drive to modernise the Saudi economy, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled plans for a luxury Red Sea resort on a stretch of coastline in the country's north-west.

Knowing that foreign visitors are unlikely to come to beaches where women have to cover up in the robe-like dress of an abaya, the government said the resort would be "governed by laws on par with international standards".

Saudi Arabia's own laws on women are among the most repressive in the world, with women banned from driving and unable to travel without permission from a male relative. Women are expected to cover their skin and hair when they are outside. Last month, a woman was arrested for wearing a miniskirt in an abandoned village.

Alcohol is banned under Saudi law. It is unclear if it will be allowed at the resort.

Saudi Arabia's public investment fund described the project as an "exquisite luxury resort destination established across 50 untouched natural islands".

It added: "The Red Sea project will be... situated across the islands of a lagoon and steeped in nature and culture.

"It will set new standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel to put Saudi Arabia on the international tourism map."

Construction is due to begin in 2019 and the first phase of the project will be completed by 2022, according to the announcement. It hopes to attract a million visitors a year by 2035.

The Red Sea project is part of the Prince's Vision 2030 - a plan to diversify the Saudi economy and wean it off its dependence on oil. Some foreign investors have applauded the young prince, but others have said the plan is unlikely to succeed.

Irish Independent

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