Kim Edwards in Saudi Arabia.
Kim Edwards in Saudi Arabia.

Kim finds Saudi rules hard going

IMAGINE not being allowed to drive, socialise with members of the opposite sex and being forced to sit in a special section of a restaurant.

That's life as a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Former Sunshine Coast mayoral candidate, author and business leader Kim Edwards is back in Australia after three months overseas in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

She's home in Kenilworth for the summer break, leaving behind average temperatures of about 45 degrees.

Ms Edwards spoke to the Daily about teaching at the world's largest women-only university, adapting to strict rules and her cancer scare.

"I'm enjoying the experience in Saudi Arabia," she said.

"It's quite different than any other parts of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is quite unique.

"It's probably the strictest country I've been to. It has been very hard, very challenging to adapt to."

Ms Edwards has taken up a 12-month teaching contract at Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh. It's the largest women-only university in the world.

It has more than 52,000 students and 2000 staff.

Ms Edwards said one of the toughest parts of life in Saudi Arabia had been adapting to strict laws.

In most areas of Saudi Arabia, women wear a full-length black covering known as an Abaya, and cover their heads.

"You've constantly got to be aware of religious beliefs," Ms Edwards said.

"I got in trouble a couple of times for not having my head scarf on correctly."

While Ms Edwards was always planning to return home for months, she came back a few weeks early after a health scare.

She will have surgery during her time here.

"It's nothing major," she said. "There was suggestion it was cancer, but turns out I'm all clear.

"It was a bit scary at first."

Ms Edwards said she would return in August to see out the remainder of her 12-month contract.

 

>> WOMEN IN SAUDI ARABIA

  • Many areas of life in Saudi Arabia are segregated by sex to ensure that unrelated men and women have no possibility of mingling (a punishable crime)
  • Women who are arrested for socialising with a man who is not a relative may be charged with prostitution.
  • Some restaurants, particularly fast-food outlets, have refused to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative. In addition, some restaurants or cafes do not have a "family section" in which women are permitted to eat.


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