03/15/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi feminism, a hotel for women only

The Luthan hotel in the north of Riyadh will open next week, and will try to put an end to the problems of Saudi women who travel and work in the country, and who always need special authorisation to reserve a room in 'mixed' hotels.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The rhythm of a woman's life in Saudi Arabia is marked by the permits that male figures of reference must approve before she can do anything, from driving a car to reserving a hotel room to working. The Luthan spa is a hotel for women only, the first of its kind in the Gulf and the only one where no special permissions will be necessary.

The hotel - which will open to an exclusively female public next week - emerged from the idea of a group of businesswomen who wanted to resolve some of the difficulties that Saudi women face.  The chairperson of the board of partners is Princess Madawi Bint Mohammad Bin Abdullah, who says they have obtained approval from Sultan Bin Salman, secretary general of the Saudi tourism commission.

The current laws in Saudi Arabia do not allow 'mixing' among the sexes, and businesswomen who travel for their work often find themselves in unpleasant situations when the moment arrives to check in to a hotel.  The hotels of the kingdom will accommodate only women who are accompanied by a male family member, or in possession of a written permit granted by a manager at their workplace, or by the police.

"Luthan is an attempt to resolve this situation.  Once we obtained the permission to open the hotel, we travelled all over the world looking for ideas and information to offer a luxury service to our clients", says Princess Madawi.

With 25 lavish rooms, the hotel is equipped with a restaurant, a conference room, a spa, and all the most sophisticated comforts.  But above all, those who spend the night in Luthan can leave the permits at home.

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