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Saudi’s identity crisis: Is transformation happening too fast?

Saudi looks the same size on any world map, but its crossing many boundaries while designing its new look future.

The world is in awe at the Saudi transformation.

It has also drawn some ire from conformists.

What’s in the cards for the Kingdom?

Ace in the hole

According to Arab News, Riyadh will host the first-ever Baloot championship from April 4 to 18,as per the General Sports Authority (GSA) announcement via Twitter.

This popular game among Saudis will have the top four players receiving prize money totaling more than $270,000, half of it, $135,000, to the winner.

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Aiman Turkistani from Makkah told Arab News. “The championship is a good idea and will raise spirits.”

Baleegh Abdullah, a veteran Baloot player from Jeddah, expects women to take part in the championships, and also predicts the game’s popularity to grow.

Others criticised it.

One tweeted that card games are unlawful in religion even without prize money, while another described it as a form of gambling.

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A softer touch for business

The Telegraph reported that women in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to start businesses without the permission of a male guardian, quoting an official Tweet on Sunday by a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce and investment, followed by a hashtag: #No_Need.

The new procedures bypasses a guardian’s nod and a visit to a notary to document the founding of a company, and will start doing them electronically.

In July 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development said Saudi female employment rose to 30% of the private sector workforce, or 130% more over nearly half a decade.

Come June, Saudi women will be able to drive themselves to work or business. And in their free time, they could also attend soccer ties, a musical concert, or movie.

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Dress for success

Saudi is now in fashion, literally, looking to play an increased cultural role, locally and globally.

According to Arab news, Riyadh to host Saudi Arabia’s first Arab Fashion Week on March 26-31, 2018.

Princess Noura bint Faisal, honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council (AFC), announced the news to a small group of industry insiders and journalists in London today.

Reading a letter from the General Entertainment Authority in Saudi Arabia, she said: “The General Entertainment Authority believes that such an event will allow a proper platform to showcase fashion and arts talents as the vehicle for a comprehensive range of entertainment options in Saudi Arabia.”

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Princess Noura told Arab News that the event would be open to designers from all over the world. “This event is just the beginning,” she said.

Layla Issa Abuzaid, Saudi Arabia country director at the Arab Fashion Council, said: “We believe that to promote the fashion sector will support other economy sectors such as tourism, hospitality, travel and trade. Our entertainment sector is among the fastest growing in the world.”

The question is: Will stage models wear abayas, or traditional long robes which were deemed unnecessary anymore by Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars?

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Role play
Fox News reported that last Friday, a sold-out audience in Riyadh was treated for the first time to a woman taking the stage alongside the men.

The actress, Najat Mouftah, played the evil character of Yzma in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” after she auditioned for the role a month ago.

The Emperor’s New Groove”, based on the 2000 Disney animated movie of the same name, was performed several times last year, but this marked the first time that it was presented with a woman. In the past, men have played the female characters.