“Win or lose, you’re creating history.”
Change is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a rapid pace these days – 2017 saw the end of the ban on women driving, plans to reopen public cinemas, and the country’s first concert headlined by a woman performer.
Plans were also made to welcome women to sports stadiums, and in July, word came that girls would do physical education at school. There’s even speculation that we may soon see the end of the kingdom’s male guardianship law.
As the year kicks off, it’s clear that those changes aren’t slowing down. Saudi Arabia is currently hosting its first-ever squash tournament for women.
The meet, held in Riyadh, has a prize of US$165,000 (Dhs6.06 million). Egypt’s Nour Al Sherbini is top seeded, and world-ranked English player Sarah-Jane Perry is also playing. She tweeted saying she was excited to take part in the groundbreaking tournament.
Proud to be a part of this. It was amazing to be hosted by Princess Reema tonight and hear how truly passionate she is about sport in Saudi. Thanks to @zalturki for persisting in making your dream a reality and facilitating us to live ours #groundbreaking @WomenSportTrust https://t.co/XuuCUzPiJ7
— Sarah-Jane Perry (@SJPerry15) January 6, 2018
Those players are joined by Saudi national Nada Abo al-Naja, competing as a wildcard.
Ziad Al-Turki, chairman of the Professional Squash Association, congratulated Abo al-Naja on her selection via Twitter.
Congratulations to Nada Aboalnaga for being chosen as the Saudi Wildcard. 1st Saudi Female to join the #psaworldtour
— Ziad Al-Turki (@zalturki) December 31, 2017
“Win or lose, you’re creating history,” Al-Turki added at the tournament’s opening dinner. Abo al-Naja will play her first round on Monday evening, against France’s Camille Serme, the PSA site says.
Changes like these come as part of Vision 2030, the kingdom’s post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
The initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.
Images: PSA World Tour/Twitter