Saudi Arabia has just opened its first women-only hotel – the 25-room Luthan Hotel and Spa in Riyadh. It offers plush surroundings together with a full range of health and beauty facilities for ladies to pamper themselves away from the eyes of the male-dominated Saudi society.
“Inside this physical structure we are all women,” said the Lutan’s Executive Director, Lorraine Coutinho. “We are women-owned, women-managed and women-run … from the bell-ladies to the electrical engineer.”
Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the world. Women must cover up when in public; they are prevented from meeting male friends outside the home, driving cars or taking up employment in many jobs.
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce is delighted with the new hotel. A spokesman said: “This is a good response to those who say women aren’t taken care of here.”
Of course there are women-only hotels in other parts of the world and this has always been contentious in countries where women supposedly have equal rights. For instance, there was a lively on-line debate when the Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, set aside its 19th floor for women nine months ago.
This was the view at the time of the feminist Los Angeles attorney, Gloria Allred: “What we want are equal rights. Not more rights, not fewer rights, but equal rights. This Marriott idea goes back to stereotyping: men as sexual predators, women as fragile and needing to be protected. We don’t want to go back to the 1950s.”
But the overwhelming majority of the women who joined in a blog debate on the subject felt that the segregation idea was a good thing. Example: “A women-only floor would be a comfort and I do believe the majority of men would understand and support it, especially when their wives and daughters travel.”
by Andy Moreton