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Rare scenes as Saudi Arabia stages swimwear fashion show

The fashion show is another testament to Saudi Arabia's commitment to loosen its grip on some stern restrictions.

Models present creations from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q, during the Red Sea Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea resort of Ummahat Island on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

The show took place on the second day of the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week at the St Regis Red Sea Resort, situated off Saudi Arabia’s western coast.

The resort is part of the Red Sea Global, one of the giga-projects at the heart of the Gulf kingdom's Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme embarked upon by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The poolside event featured the work of Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal, including mostly one-piece suits in shades of red, beige and blue.

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Most models had exposed shoulders and some had their midriffs partially visible, unprecedented scenes in a country where less than a decade ago women were required to wear body-covering abaya robes.

“It’s true that this country is very conservative but we tried to show elegant swimsuits which represent the Arab world.

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“When we came here, we understood that a swimsuit fashion show in Saudi Arabia is a historic moment because it is the first time to have such an event,” Qanzal told AFP, adding it was “an honour” to be involved.

Prince Mohammed, who became first in line to the throne in 2017, has launched a series of radical reforms in a bid to loosen Saudi Arabia's grip on some stern restrictions.

The Gulf nation was hitherto known for its austere image stemming from its historical championing of a purist form of Islam known as Wahhabism.

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The social changes in the country include the sidelining of club-wielding police who used to chase men out of malls to observe prayer, the re-introduction of cinemas and the organising of mixing-gender music festivals.

Earlier, Pulse reported that Saudi opened its first liquor store in over 70 years.

Alcohol sales and consumption had been prohibited in the Muslim-majority nation since 1952, shortly after an incident where one of King Abdulaziz’s sons got drunk and, in a rage, shot dead a British diplomat.

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