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CAIRO, June 25, 2018 (MENA) - President Abdel Fattah El Sisi praised the gains achieved by Saudi women in the light of recent decisions taken by the Saudi kingdom that reflect a genuine will to empower women.

Sisi said on his Facebook account that he follows with interest "the achievements of Saudi women, which reflect the determination of Saudi Arabia, represented by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, to empower women and protect their rights."

"The recent decisions by the Saudi kingdom have been an overwhelming evidence of a genuine will to empower women and support them for the sake of the kingdom's community development."

Sisi also expressed his appreciation of the steps taken so far to empower women in Saudi Arabia terming them as a true demonstration of the courage of the Saudi decision-makers and their sincere desire for realising enlightenment and development. 

CAIRO, June 4, 2018 (MENA) - Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil said on Monday three new factories for the production of household appliances will be inaugurated in 6th of October City within a few weeks with Egyptian-Saudi investments of up to $100 million. 

In a statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Kabil noted the three factories are belonging to Unionaire Group and will produce washing machines, fridges and TV screens. 

This comes as a part of the ministry's efforts to promote the national industry by increasing the percentage of local components in locally-manufactured products, the statement said. 

"The local component in the TV factory will reach 71 per cent," underlined the minister. 

Chairman of Unionaire Group Mohamed Fatehy said the three factories would create 1,500 jobs and the industrial complex will create around 3,000 more. 

RIYADH, May 15, 2018 (News Wires) - A car show in the Saudi capital is drawing in many women, who from next month will be allowed to drive in the kingdom as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernization plans.

The event also attracted banks ready to offer financing for women buyers.

“Anything related to cars these days is attracting Saudi Arabian women. I want to know more about cars and prices,” said Shaimaa al-Fadl as she climbed into a car at the exhibition and adjusted the rear-view mirror.

The royal decree will end a conservative tradition seen by activists as an emblem of the Muslim kingdom’s repression of women.  

RIYADH (News Wire) May 6, 2018 - Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered protection for employees who report financial and administrative corruption, Al Arabiya TV reported on Sunday, as part of an effort to combat graft that saw dozens of royals and top businessmen detained last year.

The head of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Dr. Khalid Al Muhaisen pointed out that this matter “emphasizes the interest and concern of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Crown Prince to combat corruption, and protect the interests of citizens and residents who do their duty to report cases of corruption, and ensure that they are not harmed by the submission of communications,” Al Arabiya reported.

Most of the people detained in the anti-corruption drive, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released from Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government. The government said such deals brought in more than $100 billion.

Muhaisen affirmed that Saudi leadership is determined and resolute in combating corruption in all its forms and non-tolerance of the corrupt and providing the necessary protecting the whistleblowers from corruption practices and preserve their rights in line with the vision of the kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 plan, which has made transparency, integrity and the fight against corruption its top priorities.

RIYADH, April, 23, 2018 -  Saudi air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles Monday fired by Houthi militias targeting Jazan, Al Arabyia Channel reported.

The kingdom’s air defenses intercepted another missile targeting the Najran region while another missile fell in a desert area on Sunday.

The militia has fired more than 100 ballistic in total targeting Saudi Arabian land according to an Arab Coalition statement released on April 16. Saudi air defenses were able to intercept most of them.

RIYADH, April 22, 2018 (wire news) --  Saudi Arabian security forces said they had shot down a recreational drone in the capital on

Saturday after online videos showing gunfire in a neighbourhood where royal palaces are located.

The Riyadh police spokesman, quoted by the official Saudi News Agency (SPA), said a security screening point noticed the flying

of a small unauthorized recreational drone at 7:50 pm local time, leading security forces to deal with it according to their orders and

instructions.

There were no casualties, and King Salman was not at his palace at the time, a senior Saudi official told Reuters.

“The king was at his farm in Diriya,” the official said, naming another area of the capital.

Amateur footage circulating earlier on social media showed loud gunfire that lasted for at least 30 seconds.

One video showed two police cars parked in the middle of a dark street. Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos’

authenticity.

Asked about the footage, the official said the drone had been shot down, and added that the government would introduce

regulations for the use of recreational drones.

The competent authorities have initiated investigations into the circumstances of the incident, according to SPA.

RIYADH, April, 19, 2018 - Saudi Arabia launched its first commercial movie theater, ending a nearly 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

A red carpet invitation-only gala event attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures to watch Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther” on a 45-foot screen at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh.

 “Saudis now are going to be able to go to a beautiful theater and watch movies the way they’re supposed to be watched: on a big screen,” Adam Aron, chief executive of operator AMC Entertainment Holdings, told Reuters ahead of the screening.

The smell of buttery popcorn filled the air as confetti rained down through the multi-story atrium where Aron and Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad al-Awwad announced the launch and proceeded into the 450-seat hall.

The opening marks another milestone for reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open the country culturally and diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter.

JEDDAH, April 18, 2018 (AFP) — Colourful and oozing defiance, a sports-friendly version of the abaya gown was once considered a symbol of cultural rebellion in conservative Saudi Arabia, but it is fast becoming the new normal.

Pictures of female athletes running in the garb in the Red Sea city of Jeddah went viral last month, setting off a new debate on sartorial freedoms for women in a country where the typically all-black, body-shrouding garment is obligatory in public.

Some cultural purists vented fury online, calling it a breach of tradition, but opposition has been largely muted following recent comments from powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the abaya — any abaya — is not mandatory in Islam.

Until a formal edict comes however, designers such as Eman Joharjy are cashing in on the growing popularity of the so-called sports abayas, as many women push back against traditional attitudes of equating chastity with dress code.

“There is a big demand,” Joharjy told AFP at her fashion studio in Jeddah.

“Having them in different colours is empowering.”

Akin to a zippered jumpsuit, sports abayas envelop a woman’s body but offer greater mobility for sporting activities, in contrast to the classic baggy version where tripping on the hem of the flowing garment is a common risk.

The 43-year-old’s designs come in colours like pistachio green, beige and white — more tolerable in the kingdom’s scorching heat — and she uses natural fabrics, including French poplin, that do not cling to a sweating body.

One of the early pioneers of the trend, Joharjy said she was branded a social outlier and jeered by some as “batman” when she began designing — and donning — sports abayas publicly in 2007.

“There was a little bit of rebellion but I designed it for myself, because it’s practical,” she said.

“You zip up and are ready to go.”

‘Football-themed abayas’

Joharjy has defied a popular maxim in Saudi Arabia: “If it’s not black, it’s not an abaya.”

Abayas have evolved over the years, with new patterns, fabrics and embellishments, and they are sometimes worn in the kingdom with baseball-style caps over headscarves.

The latest fad is an eye-catching ensemble of “football-themed abayas” — in the colours of the local teams, a new way for female sporting fans to cheer for their favourite players.

Such fashion trends are gaining momentum amid the kingdom’s liberalisation drive, including a historic royal decree allowing women to drive from June and enter sports stadiums for the first time.

The government is also seeking to jump-start women’s sports and is moving toward compulsory physical education classes for girls, after a ban was lifted in 2014.

Saudi officials recently announced that women would be able to participate next year in the Riyadh international marathon, previously a male-only event.

Women exercising in public were long a target for the kingdom’s austere religious police, which has largely been neutered in recent years.

And the once-unthinkable idea of doing away with the abaya appears to now be gaining traction.

“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” Prince Mohammed told CBS Television last month.

“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya. (It) is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire to wear.”

‘Modest look’

Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi added a new wrinkle to the debate when he dismissed the long-held view that black was the only colour for abayas permissible in Islam.

“The cloak is meant for maintaining a modest look and it does not have to be black,” the former chief of the religious police in the holy city of Mecca, told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television last month.

But the risk of a social backlash is real in a society steeped in conservatism.

“They look like cleaners!” a tweet said, in response to viral images of athletes dressed in sports abayas.

“Their purpose is not sports. We have all been running in full body veil,” tweeted another.

Back at Joharjy’s studio, a long-time client Marwa al-Hadi walked in wearing one of her designs with magenta sneakers.

“Abaya is like the Indian saree, it is part of our identity,” Joharjy told her, as they weighed in on the future evolution of the garment.

“But at the same time, if God did not want women to do sports, we would not have muscles or a body.”

Hadi nodded.

“It is no one’s business to stop and question what I’m wearing,” she said.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 18, 2018 (AP) — Saudi Arabia will hold a private screening of the Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther” to herald the launch of movie theatres that are set to open to the public next month.

Authorities are planning an invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall that’s been converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh.

Wednesday’s screening will be followed by a rush to build movie theatres in major cities.

Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia has gradually loosened restrictions on movie screenings, with local film festivals and screenings in makeshift theatres. In the 1970s, there were informal movie screenings, but the experience could be interrupted by the country’s religious police.

CAIRO, April 12, 2018 (MENA) - Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed for Saudi Arabia Thursday to take part in preparatory meetings of the 29th Arab Summit, scheduled to be held in Dammam city on Sunday. During their meeting, Arab foreign ministers will discuss the latest development in the Middle East region, particularly the situation in Palestine, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. The top Arab diplomats will also tackle efforts exerted to counter terrorism and strengthen joint Arab action to prevent any foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries. The Arab foreign ministers will confer with UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Syria. Shoukry will hold meetings with his Arab counterparts to discuss means of boosting bilateral relations and the latest developments at the regional and international levels.

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