Today Women in Saudi Arabia Can Attend a Soccer Match for the First Time

The historic moment comes in the wake of last October's decision by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to allow women to drive

In this Sept. 23, 2017 file photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi men and women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Press Agency via AP, File

In Saudi Arabia, Fridays match between rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad at Riyadhs King Fahd International Stadium is historical as it will be the first time in the countrys history, women will be allowed to join men in the stands.

The historic moments comes in the wake of last October's decision by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to eventually allow women to drive and have greater access in multiple spheres of everyday life. 

Though they will be segregated from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section." The move is Saudi Arabia's first social reform planned for this year granting women greater rights.

This past September, Saudi Arabia celebrated the 87th anniversary of its founding with a big spectacle of concerts and performances, including a pageant operetta which allowed women to enter the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for the first time.

The festivities were part of a government move to boost national pride and improve quality of life for Saudis.

There was also a concert in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featuring 11 Arab musicians, plus fireworks, air acrobatics and traditional folk dance shows.

"It is the first time I have come to the stadium and I feel like more of a Saudi citizen. Now I can go everywhere in my country," said 25-year-old Sultana, green and white flags painted on both cheeks as she entered the complex with her girlfriends.

Saudi women-only motorshow opens in Jeddah

Women flocked to Le Mall in Jeddah on Thursday to check out the kingdom's first car exhibition aimed at women, a few months after Saudi Arabia granted them the right to drive.

Pink, orange and yellow balloons hung in the mall's showroom as women posed for photos and selfies in front of the cars. One woman in the driver's seat fixed her face cover. Another wrapped her turquoise-painted fingernails around the steering wheel, feeling it out.

In a decree issued in September, King Salman ordered by June an end to the ban on women drivers, a conservative tradition that has limited women's mobility and been seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression.

Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans women drivers. The landmark royal decree has been hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, is the face of that change. Many young Saudis regard his recent ascent to power as proof their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women's progress.

"I've always been interested in cars, but we didn't have the ability to drive," said Ghada al-Ali, a customer. "And now I'm very interested in buying a car but I would like the payments and prices to not be very high."

Saudi Arabia's cost of living has risen after the government hiked domestic gas prices and introduced value-added tax (VAT) in January.

The exhibition focused on fuel-efficient cars and provided a team of saleswomen to help their new customer base. The showroom carried signs emblazoned with the slogan "Drive and Shop", a play on words in Arabic, using the female form of the verbs.

"It is known that women are the largest section who shop in malls," said Sharifa Mohammad, the heads the exhibition's saleswomen. "This whole mall is run by women anyway. All the cashiers are women. Everyone in the restaurants are women."

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this story