Saudi Arabia opens women-only hotel

In a kingdom where there's often so little for women to do that the opening of a shopping mall can spark a fatal crush, the Luthan Hotel and Spa, Saudi Arabia's first women-only hotel, must be a very exciting prospect.

The opening of the women-only hotel follows the lifting of a ban allowing women to travel and stay in hotels only when accompanied by a male guardian. It's now possible for Saudi women to stay in a hotel sans homme - simply by showing an ID card which can then be verified by local police.

The new hotel, "meets the Saudi woman's need for a place to stay as she moves around her country," says Sultan bin Salman - one of 7 Saudi Princes responsible for the hotel - which is staffed and run exclusively by women.

And Mohammed al-Adhil, deputy head of Riyadh chamber of commerce thinks the hotel is a smashing idea which will do wonders for the image of Saudi women's rights abroad. "This is a good response to those who always say women aren't taken care of here."

Quite right. What better way to show the rest of the world you're serious about women's rights, than opening a hotel just for the ladies? An oasis of man free calm where women can be primped and pampered and beautified to distraction - away from the wolfish glare of the male gaze.

'A hotel for lesbians' said one disgruntled bystander at the opening. Or a symbol of sluggish change in a Kingdom steeped in conservative, anti women sentiment? Whatever next? Driving licences for girls?

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