It has long been a taboo for Saudi women to take part in major public cultural performances, but it looks like things are going to be different from now onwards.
A group of women became the first to ever perform at the kingdom's Souq Okaz Festival. The women - who are all top-notch equestrians from different Arab countries including Saudi Arabia - took part in an event called "Forsan Okaz" (Knights of Okaz). They rode horses alongside men during a show that left audiences mesmerized.
The 13th edition of the festival was launched last Thursday as part of Taif Season's "Masyaf Al-Arab" and runs until the end of August. The festival is an old tradition that used to bring together Arabs over 1,500 years ago, and was revitalized 13 years ago in Saudi Arabia.
This marks the first time women, especially those Saudi, take part in a similar cultural event. Their participation comes at a time when things are drastically changing for them in the kingdom.
Last year marked the first time a Saudi woman performed in a theater show
In 2018, a Saudi actress became the first woman to perform a role in a theatrical play. Identified as Najat, the 21-year-old actress starred in the Saudi theater adaptation of the Disney film The Emperor's New Groove. The spectacle was organized by the kingdom's Entertainment Authority.
In a statement published before the play opened to audiences, its director, Amawry Azaya, said:
"We've always questioned why women weren't allowed to perform in plays but never got a clear answer. We recently reached out to officials at the kingdom's Entertainment Authority and after looking at our script and discussing the matter with a Vision 2030 committee, they passed an official order granting women the right to perform on stage."
Before the new decree was passed, women's parts in theatrical productions had to be played by men as it was illegal for both genders to share a stage.