Saudi Arabia: Does the Kingdom Need a Women-Only City?


UPDATE:  This article appeared in today’s Al Arabiya firmly stating there will be NO Women-Only City.

Here is what American Bedu had originally posted on the subject prior to the update:

The Saudi Industrial Property Authority, otherwise known as “Modon,” has been charged to lead a new governmental initiative.  Towards promoting more opportunities and allowing women to capitalize on their university degrees and skills, a sharia compliant city for women-only will be built in the town of Hafuf located in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province.

Initial plans for the city are described as creating at least 5000 jobs for women in the textile, pharmaceutical and food processing industries.  Women will hold leadership roles as well as staff and line positions.

The city of Hafuf expects to attract 500 million riyals (US$133 million) in investments for this venture.

Hafuf has a population of 1.2 million according to a 2009 census.  Hafuf is the closest city to Saudi Arabia’s famous Ghawar oil field.  Hafuf is known as a cultural city within the Kingdom and the women-only campus of King Faisal University offers women the ability to medicine, dentistry and home economics.  Hafuf is serviced by Damman’s King Fahd Airport which is located 130 kilometers away from Hafuf.

There are also unspecified plans in the works to create a second women-only city at an undisclosed location.

The global populace will likely view the women –only city as a mixed blessing.  On one hand it is opening up additional opportunities for women but with boundaries.  Does the Hafuf population have enough women in its general area who have the desire to work or will women from elsewhere in the Kingdom be expected to relocate to Hafuf for better employment opportunities?  If a woman wants to relocate to Hafuf, what barriers might she face from family towards realizing the opportunity?

Are women-only cities the roadway that must be paved in order for women to receive more rights and opportunities?  Will a women-only city limit or free the Saudi woman?  If she must work in a women-only city how does that prepare a future executive or leader to be successful in an international environment?

The topic of greater opportunities for women makes me think of tried, true and also innovative ways for Saudi women to become entrepreneurs without the need to travel to a women-only city.

Saudi women are known fashionistas and I write that in a positive manner.  I am surprised that there are less women engaged in home shopping ventures where haute couture or fashions of favorite designers are not brought to groups of women in their homes.  Home party sales of lingerie seems like it would also be a tailored success for the Saudi market.

There’s no reason a Saudi woman could not be an accountant or financial consultant from her own home office.

I want Saudi women to have opportunities for employment and advancement but I’m not convinced yet that women-only cities are the way to go.  Are you?


22 Responses

  1. Continuation of institutionalized segregation, discrimination, marginalization and inequality. The ruling men are bent on keeping the society divided and at each other’s throat.

  2. This is a level off absurdity that people will write about for years to come after the insanity has past.

  3. A fantatsic idea, that bends logic to tradition in what seems a totally impracticle idea… but who knows!

  4. OK I can see their point – BUT:
    1. Will women be allowed to drive in this ‘women only’ city?
    2. WIll they have control of their own bank accounts without them being linked to a male relative?
    3. Will they be able to apply for and get their own entry/exit visits?
    4. Which women have a trade such as plumbing or electrician etc in order to be able to service the needs of this city?
    Isn’t it just a way to isolate women even more?

    Why not set up a women’s only workplace in a building somewhere in Riyadh or Jeddah where no man can enter the building (or do these already exist? I don’t know?)… same principle but at least she can go home to her husband and children every night rather than having all of the usual limitations AND isolation to have to deal with.

    Is there a reason that the home party scene is not popular in Saudi? I can think of at least 10 different companies off the top of my head that operate this way in western countries. Is the problem with importing the stuff or permits?

  5. If only the minds that spend such enormous amounts of time coming up with stuff like this…would spend time on valid useful ideas as well.

  6. Oh yes!
    Absolutely brilliant idea.
    But I think they are going at it in a too timid way. Why stop at one or more cities, the obvious solution to any mingling of the sexes is obvious:
    One iron curtain through the whole country!

    On the one side the men, on the other side the women. In between a short piece of ”no-man’s land” where they have little estrahas, and the men and women who can prove that they are related can meet there. The Muttawas can do the policing. Otherwise it is too sad for them that they never get to harrass women anymore.
    Marriages continue to be arranged of course, and the couple can meet every now and then to have the man impregnate the woman. If they want to because same sex relationships will of course become even more prevalent then they are now.

    Women can drive in their part of the country, because there are no men who can rape them when they get a flat tire or something. There will be lots of jobs for women and as everybody always says that Saudi women are much more professional and hard working than the men over time the female part of the country will become much more prosperous and evolve, while the men’s part becomes more and more a mess and a shamble.
    Of course in the male part of the country they can’t have any female maids, they will have to hire house boys instead of maids.

    I think it’s a brilliant plan and I can’t wait to see it happen. in fact I think I am going to work it out in my own mind.

  7. This is a great idea… no more need for abayas, gloves, socks or veiling of the face, no more bans on women’s gyms, Saudi women will become healthy, sporty, tanned, they can lounge on the beaches in bikini’s…
    They can study what they want, build their own schools, hospitals, they will run their cities, they can finally have a decent mosque of their own, not relegated to a pathetic stuffy windowless room… They can have cinema’s make their own movies, they can become scientists, they can be anything they want!
    They will become self reliant and self assured.
    In fact they will become Saudi men’s greatest nightmare….
    I don’t think they’ve thought this out very well. 😈

  8. Probably, as most of them will end up lesbian or homo, they will introduce artificial insemination to get pregnant, as neither the fmeales not the men will be interested in heterosexual sex, which means that in the end the women will not really need men anymore, only a couple as breeding stock, so in a hundred years or so, when the male part of Saudi Arabia has completely collapsed, and is living on handouts form the female part, the population will have gone down quite a bit, and when the oil stops flowing there will be the women’s part of the country, which will have developed all kinds of industry, and the Saudi people will survive after all!

    I get it now! It’s an inspired plan for survival!

    You know, this is why I keep reading Bedu and Saudi newspapers. As a country Saudi Arabia is unique in it’s constantly producing the best amusement.

  9. the first thought that comes to mind is the masive no of phone number flicking men that will line up outside this city and throw papers at women going in and out — a veritable shower of ph numbers 🙂

  10. No chance Radha, there will be no crossing of the boundary, it will look like this:

  11. Aafke-Art … you are absolutely right. It really should be done that way. They should hire you. I take exception to one comment though.
    “Probably, as most of them will end up lesbian or homo”. You should change this to read ‘they will probably be living homosexual lives’ because people do not become homosexual, they are born that way. That is not to say they will not have same sex relations but just that the act will not make someone homosexual.

    I also was thinking that if you put a women-only city in Hafuf it might go a long way to solving the “Shi’a problems” they have in the region.

  12. Wendy, that is what I meant., but you put it into words better. Homosexual people are born to fall for other people of their own sex, Bisexual people are attracted to either gender, Heterosexual people will fall into homosexual relationships if there are no people from the opposite sex available. This is already happening in Saudi Arabia. It’s only human, we need somebody to love, nature will make you love somebody.
    Anyway, Once Saudi Arabia is completely segregated, the women and men will find loving relationships among themselves.

  13. Something not addressed is that these ‘cities of women’ can become major power cities. Women can take over and we know that women can and will take control given the chance (which is why KSA and other countries try and keep them down). Put all these women together and the collective self-image and self-esteem will change and women will begin to feel their power and begin to exercise it. Wow! Maybe they really are on the right track after all!

  14. The real reason they get investors for these ”women’s cities” is that women are cheap labor much cheaper than men, and they work a lot harder than men. A win/win stuation.
    For the investors.

  15. hi. all sarcasm aside, these women only cities obviously border on gender apartheid. no different than when south africa was practicing racial apartheid by setting up separate “homelands” for black people under the guise of self-rule. and no different than hitler and stalin setting up jewish ghettos/pogroms. and no different than usa forcing native americans into reservations and african-americans into ghettos. you get the point. may the good lord have mercy and help my saudi sisters, amen. blessings ….

  16. Of course you are right but I wasn’t entirely joking when I was saying that a city of just women could be a very powerful and dangerous thing for men. Right now the system works by keeping women basically in their homes and NOT united.
    Sadly, upon reading the update that such a city will not be built, there will be no chance for women to be united and make some power moves. Not surprised really as I imagine someone thought about the ‘strong women’ scenario and realized how dangerous it would be to men. 😦

  17. This is crazy. Sorry. Kind of like a nunnery on a huge scale where only women lived in a community. So how would this work for women who have a boyfriend, husband or just a platonic friend or work colleague….? Would this mean curfews for men or limitations on them in the women only city. Think about this…

    Just creates more walls and segregation on multiple fronts.

    This type of segregation, assumes that all men are suspect, bad in terms of not treating women equally. That women are still suspect of temptation to men (or vice versa) and therefore we have to keep the sexes apart.

  18. Why Saudi women can’t work in the normal society ? Why they must to built a ladies city only in order to let them work ? They could wear niqab, cover up their bodies and work in the normal life.

  19. @Jean,
    I don’t know how it works- nor do I agree with it- but you cannot have boyfriends here and nor can you have platonic friends of the other gender. And your assumptions about men and women are exactly what is prevelant here and that is why they are suggesting such a preposterous idea.

  20. Dana Islam:

    What is normal about being forced to wear a niqab?

  21. lol>Those Westerners and Americans is more Crazier … that way I thought …
    Saudis people is very natural ….
    They just Muslims and conservatives ..
    Let’s talk about sex.
    Adultery is haram … ((Islam prevents any sexual relationship outside of marriage))
    Sex. Be under the roof of marriage ..
    If you like a girl .
    you can not go out with them or have sex with her before marriage ..
    If you really like this girl you have to make her your wife and living together a stable and happy life ..
    And their children’s lives Between father and mother A stable family life
    ((This seems logical to me))
    We do not want to be like the West … who tied for first place in the rape and murder of women …
    And spreads Foundling in the streets and homosexuals ….
    This freedom that you wanted????
    Does it look like hell ….

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