Saudi Arabia ends gender segregation in restaurants 

Women sit among men in a cafe in Khobar, Saudi Arabia opened this year. (Reuters/File photo)
Updated 09 December 2019

Saudi Arabia ends gender segregation in restaurants 

RIYADH/MAKKAH: The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has ended the requirement for restaurants to have separate sections for males and families.

Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, the department’s minister-designate, also approved other updates to rules and regulations in different sectors on Sunday.

Dr. Khaled Al-Jammaz, undersecretary-designate for technical affairs at the ministry, explained that the move was part of a number of amendments that included 103 regulations, requirements, manuals, models, standards and applications for activities of all kinds.

Makkah Mayor Mohammed Abdullah Al-Quwaihis told Arab News that the amendments aimed to make life easier for investors, citizens and entrepreneurs.

“They will be positive and will ease many conditions and restrictions, but they will not affect the core of the work in terms of public health and food, and this decision will increase the flow of investment and the number and variety of restaurants,” he said.

Nasser Al-Shalhoub, one of the owners of the soon-to-be opened Chaoua coffee shop, said that ending the requirement to have separate sections for males and families was an excellent decision — “especially since we are facing a problem with increasing costs because we are obligated to make two counters for the two sections, and now with this amendment the ministry has helped us to start working and reduce costs.”

A good designer can provide clever solutions to offer privacy for customers in different ways; it doesn’t have to be by blocking the place with big walls.

Abdulrahman Al-Harbi, An architect

“This will benefit us because we will take advantage of the space, and the area will look better,” he said.

Abdulrahman Al-Harbi, an architect, said: “A good designer can provide clever solutions to offer privacy for customers in different ways; it doesn’t have to be by blocking the place with big walls,” Al-Harbi said.

Ruba Al-Harbi, who manages a restaurant and owns the Snapchat lifestyle account @Tasteandtell, also agrees with the amendment. “It’s a waste of money to open two sections for males and families because this segregation will do nothing when both sides meet outside the restaurant’s doors.” She said that she had noticed the change a while ago, even before it was announced on the ministry’s website.

“I have entered several restaurants that had only one section and it was fine to sit and eat there.”

Al-Harbi said that were many issues when restaurants were divided. “Family sections are usually crowded. You often can’t find a place to sit while male sections are always empty because they don’t go to restaurants as much as females,” she said. 

Dareen Rajeh, a compliance analyst, said that many people in Saudi Arabia needed to get used to the existence of both sexes in the same place without becoming confused or uncomfortable. “We need to open our horizons and focus on more important issues.”


Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi, president of the Saudi Electronic University

Updated 05 July 2020

Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi, president of the Saudi Electronic University

Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh recently announced the appointment of Dr. Lilak Al-Safadi as president of the Saudi Electronic University. She becomes the first woman to chair a Saudi university that includes both male and female students.

She has worked as executive director for more than 20 years in business development, business consulting and strategic leadership, and accumulated experience in project management.

She has also published more than 50 research papers and articles on research topics such as e-commerce and artificial and commercial intelligence.

Al-Safadi was the vice president and national technology officer at Microsoft and is a faculty member at the King Saud University, Riyadh.

She also worked as a consultant to the governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monshaat), and a consultant to the vice presidency for planning, quality and development at the Saudi Electronic University. 

Al-Safadi is a graduate from the University of Wollongong, Australia with a Ph.D. in computer science which she completed in 2002; she majored in software engineering and completed her master’s in computer science in 1995. 

In a telephone interview with Al-Ekhbariya channel, Al-Safadi said that her appointment had many implications not only for empowering women and enhancing their role, but also as an indication of the Kingdom’s commitment to women’s equity at all levels, including equal opportunities in leadership and competition.