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A “historic moment” in Saudi Arabia: Fashion models show off swimwear for the first time

A “historic moment” in Saudi Arabia: Fashion models show off swimwear for the first time

Models appeared in swimsuits on Friday for the first time in Saudi Arabia, an unprecedented event in this ultra-conservative Islamic country, where women are not allowed to go out without their long black abaya.

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Models showed off their bare arms and legs by the pool, wearing the creations of Moroccan fashion designer Yasmina Qanzal.

“When we came here, we realized that showing swimwear in Saudi Arabia was a historic moment, because it was the first time,” Qanzal told AFP.

France Press agency

The show was held on the second day of the first edition of Red Sea Fashion Week at a large luxury hotel on Umm Al Sheikh Island, off the western coast of Saudi Arabia, accessible only by boat or seaplane.

The birthplace of Wahhabism, the strict interpretation of Islam, Saudi Arabia has launched societal reforms in recent years, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, easing restrictions on women and opening its economy to entertainment.

France Press agency

The world's largest oil exporter has long been associated with the oppression of women due to extremely strict rules imposed on them, such as a ban on driving and the requirement to wear the abaya and hijab.

These restrictions were lifted a few years ago, but the Personal Status Law, which came into effect in 2022, still contains provisions that discriminate against women.

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“It is true that this country is very conservative, but we tried to show elegant swimwear that represents the Arab world,” Ms. Qanzal said.

France Press agency

“This is the first time a swimsuit show has been held in Saudi Arabia, but why not? It is possible, and we have it here,” says Shouq Mohammed, a Syrian fashion influencer who attended the show.

Raphael Simacorp, one of the French influencers also present, considered the show a “huge success” in the Saudi context.

“It's very brave of them to do that today, so I'm very happy to attend,” he said.