RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Hundreds of women thronged a sports stadium for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day Saturday, celebrated across the conservative kingdom with a raucous display of concerts, folk dance and fireworks.
The presence of women at the King Fahd stadium marks a departure from previous celebrations in the Gulf kingdom where they are effectively barred from sports arenas by strict rules on public segregation of the sexes.
Women were allowed to enter the stadium, a previously male-only venue used mostly for football matches, with their families and seated separately from single men to watch a musical show and a play on Saudi history.
“We hope in the future that there will be no restrictions on our entrance to the stadium,” Um Abdulrahman, a woman from the northwestern city of Tabuk, told AFP.
“For many years ago I have hoped that women will be given the same rights as men.”
As a swell of enthusiastic women cheering swept through the stadium, with a few wearing colourful wigs on top of their veils, some Saudi men on social media lauded their participation as a “historic” moment.
“Looks like women bought all the tickets!” one Saudi man quipped on Twitter.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive…