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Saudi Arabia hosts 'suitable for Ramadan' fashion show with drones instead of models

A Saudi Arabia fashion show caused a flap for using drones to show clothes instead of female models. (Image sources: YouTube screenshots)

In a nation where “dressing for beauty” is illegal, it shouldn’t be surprising that a key element was missing from a fashion show in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:

Female models.

Instead, organizers used drones to buzz outfits down a runway and float them through the air at a ballroom of a Hilton Hotel last week. Critics said the effect was more frightening than trendy because it looked like a roomful of ghosts instead of a fashion show.

Ali Nabil Akbar, one of the organizers, told BBC Arabic that using the drones show off the clothing that was more “suitable for Ramadan.”

"The idea is that we want to add things that are simple yet beautiful," Akbar said. "Even the décor and set-up of the hall was organized beautifully, everything involved innovation."

A London student posted a video of the show on Twitter and it went viral, NPR reported. Many of the comments noted the unintended hilarity of the flying dresses. Others were outraged, calling it a reminder of how Saudi Arabia oppresses and devalues women.

The show happened just a few weeks after the Saudi capital Riyadh hosted its first Arab fashion week in April. NPR reported:

"The first gowns by designers like Lebanon's Tony Ward and Bibisara from Kazakhstan were ultra-feminine — with long trains and an emphasis on sequins, feathers and beads...

"Saudi women regularly attend fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan. But the kingdom is still highly conservative and there are restrictions on what types of clothes can be exhibited at the Riyadh show — no cleavage, nothing above the knee and nothing too transparent. The audience was female only."

What rights do Saudi women have?

Saudi women are typically required to wear an abaya, a black, loose-fitting, floor-length cloak. There are not even allowed to try on clothing while shopping.

Saudi women also don’t have the freedom to make decisions such as opening a bank account or choosing a husband.

“Permission to marry must be granted by your wali, or guardian,” the Independent explains. “Women who seek to marry foreigners must obtain approval to do by the ministry of interior, and marriage to non-Muslims is so difficult as to be impossible.”

In 2017, Saudi women were finally given the right to drive.

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