Riyadh: A young Saudi Arabian princess inspired by her time living in Tokyo is the new face of fashion in an ultraconservative kingdom, where dramatic reforms have sparked equal parts optimism and scepticism.
Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, the great-granddaughter of Saudi Arabia’s founder, was named honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council in December.
The royal, who turns 30 on Sunday, this month oversaw her country’s first Arab Fashion Week, headlined by Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli.
With a shayla headscarf draped over her hair, the princess is warm, welcoming and eloquent, the exact image that fans have hailed as the future of Saudi Arabia and critics have dismissed as little more than window dressing in one of the most restrictive countries in the world.
“Absolutely I understand people’s perspective,” Princess Noura said in an interview in Riyadh. “Saudi Arabia has strong ties with its culture. As a Saudi woman, I respect my culture, I respect my religion.
“Wearing the abaya or being if you would like to call it conservative in the way we dress is something that is part of who we are. It’s part of our culture … this is how our life is, even while travelling,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed rapid policy change since the June appointment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the king and heir to his throne.
From this summer, women will be allowed to drive in the kingdom. The crown prince has also hinted that the abaya, the neck-to-toe robe worn by women, may no longer be compulsory.
The princess graduated from Tokyo’s Rikkyo University with a Masters degree in International Business with a Japanese Perspective.
She cites her time in Japan as a major influence on her approach to fashion, business and people at home.
“That’s where the whole love of fashion started,” she said. “So I think I bring back a lot of Japan to Saudi … The respect of others, the respect of other people’s culture, of other people’s religion.”
The cultural influence of Asia is visible in Riyadh, where the crossover between the kimono and abaya is growing in popularity among fashion-loving youth.
Ready-couture, the halfway point between haute-couture and ready-to-wear, has also skyrocketed in the region with the rise of social media and influencers, and Saudi Arabia has an eye on that market — as a future manufacturing hub.
“Couture is no longer affordable to a lot of people,” said Princess Noura. “It was something that was part of fashion and still is … but these days people are focusing even more on ready-to-wear which is something that everyone can indulge in, everyone can wear, everyone can be part of.”
The princess also has her eye on introducing textile manufacturing to Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.
“Even if it’s just 10 percent of the production line, or the manufacturing line, we can have the finishing … the last stages of assembly in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“I believe that we can do something great.”
Imran Khan reshuffles cabinet amidst mounting criticism over govt performance
Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled his Cabinet amidst mounting criticism at the lackluster performance of the government.
The key ministry of interior was assigned to former ISI officer, Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah who was recently appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.
He was a confidant of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly named him among three people who were a threat to her life.
Shah was elected as a member of Parliament in last year elections.
Azam Swati, who stepped down last year as minister of science and technology for allegedly using his influence over police to register a case against a poor family, made a comeback and appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.
Among other changes, information minister Fawad Chaudhry was made minister for science and technology and petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar made minister for aviation.
Mohammad Mian Soomro would cease to hold portfolio of aviation and would be just the minister for privatisation. Minister of State for Interior and Shehryar Afridi was shifted and appointed as Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions.
Dr Zafarullah Mirza was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services in place of Amir Kiani who was sacked.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Nadeem Babar appointed as SAPM on Petroleum Division.
The Prime Minister has not appointed a new finance minister and instead planning to appoint an advisor on finance. Several names were making rounds for the key post. Those being discussed included Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, Dr Hafiz Pasha and Shaukat Tareen. It is the first major reshuffle in the Cabinet since Khan became the prime minister eight months ago.
213 died in Libya clashes, says WHO
Washington: A total of 213 people have been killed and 1,009 others injured in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based Army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
“Tripoli toll is now 213 dead and 1,009 wounded. WHO medical teams continue assisting surgical staff at local hospitals,” WHO tweeted.
“Two more ambulances have been damaged. WHO calls on all parties in Libya to protect civilians, health workers and health facilities,” the agency said.
The Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, has been leading a military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli where the UN-backed government is based.
Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
Peace talks postponed after Taliban object to size of Afghan delegation
KABUL: A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid said, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with US officials.
Ghani said on Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
A senior government official said Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks are in jeopardy.
The talks between Afghan and Taliban officials at the same table for the first time have been considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted war.
The senior official said negotiations went awry after President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by the Qatar government, which is sponsoring the talks. The list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday.
The list differs in part from Ghani’s list of 250 people, according to the senior government official.
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