Saudi Arabia to allow women in bikinis at new beach resort

The ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the construction of a luxury resort on the Red Sea where women will be allowed to wear bikinis instead of having to fully cover their bodies.

Experts believe the ambitious move initiated by the new heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is another attempt to modernize the oil-dependent economy.

Women face extreme restrictions under Saudi laws, including not being able to drive or travel without the permission of a male relative, and having to cover their bodies in public, making bikinis traditionally unacceptable. 

But the government said that the resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards.” 

The resort will cover 50 islands and is expected to attract tourists from across the globe amid relaxed visa restrictions.

“It goes without question that Prince Mohammed's Vision 2030 is to improve the relatively negative image of the kingdom in the world with regard to treating women,” said Massoud Maalouf, a former diplomat and an advocate of women rights in the Middle East and North Africa region.