Saudi Arabia has come a long way. Women are enjoying greater freedom and are becoming an integral part of the Vision 2030 for a modern Saudi Arabia led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has introduced a wide range of reforms in response to demands for a more open social environment, especially from among the youth. “As part of this many social restrictions on women have been done away with such as on driving, traveling alone, mandatory hijab, gender segregation at public places, male guardianship and so on. These also fit in the Vision 2030 that focuses on socio-economic re-organization to prepare for a post-oil future,” says Md. Muddassir Quamar, Associate Professor, Center for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

There have been a series of posts on the social media highlighting the new changes that are sweeping across the Kingdom, especially related to women and tourism:

There was another one confirming that there won’t be any hijab for Argentine footballer Lionel Messi’s wife. There are reports in the public domain stating that the Argentine footballer has shifted his base to Saudi Arabia.

According to former Ambassador Anil Trigunayat: “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s effort is to unleash the latent power of women for the progress and development of the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is also promoting tourism in a big way and the upcoming USD 500 bn smart Neom City will be a dream come true.”

Reports indicate that the mega engineering project of Saudi Arabia will be without cars, and the streets and buildings will be powered by clean energy and zero carbon emissions. The name NEOM is a combination of the Greek word NEO which means new and the alphabet M denotes the first letter of the Arab word Mustakbal which means in English — the future and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Women no longer need to follow a strict dress code in Saudi Arabia. So this is not a surprise. Not only tourists and visitors, even Saudis and residents do not need mandatory Hijab. The only guideline is modest dressing,” says a foreign policy expert.

This is a step to attract more tourists from across the globe. This does not mean the social attitude has changed. But it does indeed reflect acceptance of diversity at one level,” opens Md. Muddassir Quamar, of JNU.

Accordingly, “many economic sectors such as tourism, recreation, entertainment, films, music, games and sports are being promoted to create a more conducive local business environment and attract global investments,” he adds.

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