EVERY EVENING, AS THE HEAT of the day lifts, scores of women in black robes and headscarves converge on the wide sidewalks outside a private university in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital city. They are there for their daily workout: a brisk stride along the campus perimeter.
Walking is the only physical exercise females can do publicly in this strict Muslim kingdom. Government schools do not offer physical education classes to girls. There are no female sports teams at universities. Women cannot swim, dance, bike or jog in public, and there are few places to do these activities in private. Females are not even permitted to enter stadiums to support their favourite football team.
Outside their own homes, most women have no place to exercise except in all-women’s health clubs. But these clubs are scarce and too pricey for many women, and now, some officials want to shut them altogether.