Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The demand for all-female beaches in Jeddah was the key recommendation made in a doctoral thesis for the Jeddah Faculty of Education for Girls in which she voiced the women’s demands.
The study by Saudi PhD student Amal Sheikh discusses the recreational opportunities available for women in Jeddah and revealed that 96 percent of the beaches in northern Jeddah were privately owned, which it said would hinder implementing the recommendation, in addition to posing an obstacle to the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT) in its aim to promote tourism.
The study pointed out that the regional competition in Dubai, Salalah and Qatar warranted reconsideration by the concerned authorities in terms of the internal and external promotion of the tourism industry. “We have a beautiful coastline but the high barriers erected by the proprietors of the private properties around Jeddah have obscured views of the sea. The sea is only visible from several kilometers away,” the report said, emphasizing the importance of reevaluating the situation so that the recreational beaches may be better utilized to serve tourism. This move would enable Saudi to enter into the tourism sector and become part of the regional competition, she said.
Moreover, the study outlined the importance of responding to the demand for open beaches to meet and satisfy the unique particularities of Saudi society. “Coastal cities like Beirut and Alexandria, for example, enjoy open and gender-segregated beaches for women. It would be appropriate to have beaches based on that same idea in Saudi Arabia where they can provide privacy to the women while conforming to Shariaa regulations,” she said.
The report considers the kingdom’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be an important development that confronts it with the need to adopt international standards for the classification of resorts. This led the author to question if the Jeddah Secretariat had a criterion for the classification of recreational spaces. The report pointed out that such places were classified as part of the same group that beach chalets and parks were included, which only confirmed that the secretariat did not posses a real criterion for classification.
Relying on international standards, the study suggested that an area over 10,000 square kilometers was a prerequisite, in addition to the availability of services and utilities, hotels, playfields and equestrian clubs – all of which are requirements that are met by Durrat al Arus resort. Furthermore, it added that the lack of adoption of international classification should not prevent the secretariat or the SCT from adopting an internal criterion.
The study also said that public gardens and landscaped areas on the streets were not appropriate places for recreational activities. It deemed them dangerous for children, unhygienic by virtue of the surrounding exhaust fumes, in addition to suffering the littering and spoiling by unconcerned visitors. The report concluded by saying that it made one wonder about the country’s recreational culture, which it believes is lacking in most segments of society.