每日英語跟讀 Ep.K111: Saudi Society Is Changing Just Take a Look at These Coffeehouses
For insight into these head-spinning times in Saudi Arabia, where the ultraconservative social and religious codes that micromanage daily life seem to spring a new leak every month — women driving! movie theaters! Usher and Akon rapping to sold-out crowds! — it sometimes pays to read the Google Maps reviews of specialty coffee shops.
“I visited this place and was in a total shock!” Tarak Alhamood, a customer at Nabt Fenjan, a Riyadh coffee shop, raged online recently. “YOU r VIOLATING the rules of this country. I hope this place get closed permanently.”
The issue was the decision that made Nabt Fenjan a daring outpost of the new Riyadh: Originally opened only for women, the coffee shop began allowing male and female customers to mix in late 2018.
The move propelled the cafe ahead of the law in the kingdom, where most restaurants and coffee shops are divided, by law and custom, into all-male “singles” sections and “family” sections for women and mixed family groups. Men enter through separate doors and pay in separate lines; women sometimes eat behind partitions to ensure privacy from male strangers.
In early December, however, the government announced that businesses would no longer be required to segregate customers — the latest expansion of the social reforms initiated by the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Yet Nabt Fenjan was far from the only Saudi establishment to discreetly drop separate sections over the last few years, after the crown prince defanged the religious police, which once enforced conservative social norms. Nor was it the only place to thrive partly as a result.
“I think the reason coffee shops became a trend is because people are more open to change,” said Shaden Alkhalifah, 30, who was studying at Draft Café in Riyadh on a recent evening.
Notwithstanding Alhamood’s Google pan of Nabt Fenjan, even traditionalists have begun to unbend amid the general loosening-up, in larger cities if not yet in smaller ones or rural areas.
Some women whose families might previously have allowed them to work only in the privacy of offices, if at all, now hold barista jobs. Saudis can now mingle with the opposite sex not only at home but also at movie theaters, concerts and even wrestling matches.
Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/4414614