Saudi heir plans beach re­sort where women can wear biki­nis

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Raf Sanchez MID­DLE EAST CORRESPONDENT

SAUDI ARA­BIA’S new heir to the throne has an­nounced plans for a beach re­sort where women will be al­lowed to wear biki­nis in­stead of be­ing forced to cover up.

As part of his drive to mod­ernise the Saudi econ­omy, Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man has un­veiled plans for a lux­ury Red Sea re­sort on a stretch of coast­line in the coun­try’s north­west.

Know­ing that for­eign visi­tors are un­likely to come to beaches where women have to cover up in the robe-like dress of an abaya, the gov­ern­ment said the re­sort would be “gov­erned by laws on par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards”.

Saudi Ara­bia’s own laws on women are among the most re­pres­sive in the world, with women banned from driv­ing and un­able to travel with­out per­mis­sion from a male rel­a­tive. Women are ex­pected to cover their skin and hair when they are out­side. Last month, a woman was ar­rested for wear­ing a miniskirt in an aban­doned vil­lage. Alcohol is banned un­der Saudi law. It is un­clear if it will be al­lowed at the re­sort.

Saudi Ara­bia’s pub­lic in­vest­ment fund de­scribed the project as an “ex­quis­ite lux­ury re­sort des­ti­na­tion es­tab­lished across 50 un­touched nat­u­ral is­lands”. It added: “The Red Sea project will be … si­t­u­ated across the is­lands of a la­goon and steeped in na­ture and cul­ture.

“It will set new stan­dards for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and bring about the next gen­er­a­tion of lux­ury travel to put Saudi Ara­bia on the in­ter­na­tional tourism map.”

Con­struc­tion is due to begin in 2019 and the first phase of the project will be com­pleted by 2022, ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment. It hopes to at­tract a mil­lion visi­tors a year by 2035.

The Red Sea project is part of Prince Mo­hammed’s Vi­sion 2030 – a plan to di­ver­sify the Saudi econ­omy and wean it off its de­pen­dence on oil. Some for­eign in­vestors have ap­plauded the young prince, who is of­ten re­ferred to by his ini­tials “MBS”, but oth­ers have said the plan is un­likely to suc­ceed.

Prince Mo­hammed was el­e­vated to the role of crown prince in June af­ter his older uncle, Prince Mo­hammed bin Nayef, was stripped of the ti­tle.

Prince Mo­hammed is the son of the in­cum­bent king, Sal­man, and al­ready has broad author­ity over the king­dom’s econ­omy as well as its de­fence and for­eign poli­cies. A spokesman for the pub­lic in­vest­ment fund did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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