Women's Fitness Center Forced to Close in Saudi Arabia

ABC's Ammu Kannampilly reports from London:

Local reports say that Saudi health authorities have closed down a women’s fitness center attached to a hospital in Jeddah, with officials saying it is illegal to run health clubs or fitness centers for women in the country.

Speaking to Arab News Muhammad Abdul Jawad, director of Jeddah’s Medical Licensing Administration said, “Anyone who violates regulations governing the running of health facilities would be punished severely because this involves people’s health.”

ABC News’ Martha Raddatz wrote about feeling “like a second-class citizen” when she tried to use the gym at the Marriott Hotel in Riyadh during a trip to cover then-President George W. Bush’s visit to the country in January 2008. She was turned away as a man at the reception desk told her, "Sorry, ma'am, but ladies are not allowed in here.”

“I wondered how President Bush, a self-avowed exercise fanatic, would feel if he were turned away from a gym,” Raddatz wrote. Two years ago, 20 Saudi princesses opened the women-only al-Luthan hotel in Riyadh, one of very few places in Saudi Arabia where women are allowed to use the gym.

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