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Saudi Arabia has for the first time allowed women to spectate at a football match, part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation by the ultra-conservative Muslim country.

In October, the kingdom's General Sports Authority announced that stadiums in Jiddah, Riyadh, and Dammam would be altered to allow for family visits.

In a historic decision late a year ago, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three-decade ban based on religious reasons.

Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah's Pearl stadium. Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas. "I feel very proud because I am witness to this change".

A Saudi private company on Thursday opened the first auto showroom for women only just five months before a decision allowing females to drive takes effect.

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Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football games in the US and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed with how organized Friday night's match was. This is more than women's rights: today's match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin, and the ones to follow, are opportunities for families to come together and enjoy KSA's national sport - soccer!

Some used the hashtag to share photos of female spectators wearing their team's colors in scarves thrown over their abayas.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen as the driving force behind the loosened restrictions on women.

Despite the breakthrough, there are still a host of basic human rights denied to women without the permission of a man, including applying for a passport, travelling overseas, and getting married.


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