Saudi Arabia ’s first dedicated sports centre for girls has been formally opened, heralding more steps for women’s empowerment in the country.
The centre in the Eastern Province city of Khobar  offers training programmes that include physical fitness, karate, yoga and weight loss as well as special activities for children, local Arabic newspaper Al Watan reported on Monday.
Several Saudi businesswomen attended the opening ceremony on Saturday after the General Presidency of Youth Welfare granted the club the licence allowing women to practice sports.
“This first licence is a start for women’s investments in sports,” Hana Al Zuhair, the club owner, told the daily. “They can now look forward to having partnerships with local and international trainers.”
Some of the Saudi trainers hired by the club had been trained abroad, she said.
“We did not have any problem getting the licence and I am confident that the centre will have a strong impact on the lives of Saudi women who unfortunately engage in physical activities without a carefully planned programme or in the presence of experts.”
The centre will work closely with schools after the authorities had allowed schools to offer physical education classes in the girls’ schools.
“We will train the trainers after we reach accords with those in charge of the schools in the area,” she said.
Shuaa Al Duhailan, the head of Women’s Workshops in the Eastern Province, hailed the opening of the first sports centre for women would have a strong influence on women in the region.
“Sports centres will truly re-energise women and will enhance their work performances,” she told Al Watan. “We are confident that we can now have more licensed centres that will allow women to engage in physical activities in a scientific way, and not haphazardly as before.”
Maha Saman, a trainer, said that she could note “genuine interest” by Saudi society in the all women sports centre.
“The centre alongside the decision to allow sports classes in girls’ schools will be highly beneficial for all kinds of sports,” she said. “Children will also benefit from the learning activities and from the age-specific sports programmes,” she said.