“Historic moment” in Saudi Arabia: Models parade in swimwear for first time

Models paraded in swimwear for the first time in Saudi Arabia on Friday, an unprecedented event in this ultraconservative Muslim country where women are not allowed to go outside without a long black abaya.

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Arms and legs, models dressed in the creations of Moroccan designer Yasmina Ganzal paraded by the swimming pool.

“When we came here, we understood that a swimsuit parade was a historic moment in Saudi Arabia because it was the first time,” Ms Consul told AFP.


On the second day of Red Sea Fashion Week, accessible only by boat or seaplane, a large luxury hotel on Ummah Al-Sheikh Island off the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

The cradle of Wahhabism, a purist interpretation of Islam, Saudi Arabia has embarked on social reforms in recent years under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, loosening restrictions on women and opening its economy to entertainment.


The world’s biggest oil exporter has long been associated with repression of women, with strict rules such as driving bans and mandatory abayas and headscarves.

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

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


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

Raphael Simagorbe, a French influencer, considered the parade “a great success” in the Saudi context.

“It’s very brave of them to do this today, so I’m very happy to be in attendance,” he said.

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