Monday, October 24, 2005

New trend in Ramallah: 'Girls only' cyber cafés

New trend in Ramallah: 'Girls only' cyber cafés

Reem Abdullah was raised in a conservative family in a village near the city of Ramallah. She is a university student and needs some Internet time to do research for her studies. But Reem had a dilemma; family restrictions made it almost impossible for her to frequent cyber cafés open to both genders. Reem's case is not uncommon in the West Bank, where many female students need Internet access in order to support their university studies. According to a 2004 statistical study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), almost 15 percent of females in the West Bank and 16 percent in the Gaza Strip use the Internet, while the ratio of Palestinian households with Internet connections has reached 9.2 percent. However, despite the fact that Ramallah is considered by Palestinians to be a "liberal" city, it remains quite the predicament for a girl to walk into one of the city's many cyber cafés and have to sit in mixed sessions with males - a social and religious taboo for a large number of Palestinian families. Several months ago a concerned West Bank mother decided to do something about this problem. Ahlam Al Tawil established the first 'girls-only' cyber café in the West Bank - Sabaya-Net (sabaya means young women).

Saudi allows cinema again, but only cartoons

Some 20 years after public screenings of films were banned, the first cinema will open next month in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, but showing only cartoons, a source from the firm handling the project said on Sunday. The cinema will open for women and children at a Riyadh hotel at the Eid Al Fitr feast at the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on November 2 or 3, said the source who requested anonymity. The source said that the move was made possible following an agreement with Riyadh municipality. The pan-Arab Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat said on Sunday that the 1,400-seat cinema will hold three one-hour shows to screen foreign cartoon films dubbed in Arabic every evening. It estimated that more than 50,000 people would visit the cinema during the two-week Eid break. The paper said that the project was a prelude to the start of real cinema screenings for all in Saudi Arabia, given that cafes in main cities already show films, sports games and video clips on large television sets. Cinema was once shown in private clubs in Saudi Arabia until all public screenings were banned because they were considered against Islamic law in the early 1980s. Saudi Arabia is the only country to have banned cinema houses in the Muslim conservative Arab Gulf region.


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