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Saudi Arabia has allowed women to enter stadiums to watch men's football matches for the first time in the kingdom's history as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases the strict rules separating the sexes.

The initiative to allow women into stadiums is part of the government's Vision 2030 program, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and aimed at giving more freedom to women.

The order opened the previously male-only venues of King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, and Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam to accommodate families.

One woman described it as a great experience, completely unlike watching at home. The decision to allow women to attend soccer games â€' albeit in "family sections" that keep them separate from the all-male sections â€' is part of these efforts. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she said.

Women supporters, all wearing the traditional black abaya robe, arrived well ahead of kick-off in the Jeddah stadium, some in sunglasses and others with loose-fitting veils.

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Saudi Arabia, which was the only nation around the globe to prohibit female drivers, previous year also permitted women to drive in the nation. "I think there's a lot of excitement when you walked in, especially among the children", said Sarah Swick of the match between Saudi soccer teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin.

However, strict guardianship laws are still in place, which forbid women from marrying without a male relative's content, traveling overseas and securing a passport.

Set to inherit a country where more than half the population is under 25 years old and hungry for change, the young crown prince has looked to boost his popularity by curbing almost four decades of deeply entrenched ultraconservative influence.

The country's large, new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.


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