Inside Saudi Arabia's Hotel for Women

"Like in any society you'll have some people with the idea and some against it," Al Dossary said.

"They are starting to see Saudi women in business, starting to see how good they are. And they started feeling the pressure of having half of the society paralyzed. You need to have all of these people working together in order for the society to move on," she said.

Al Luthan's founders see their approach as a carefully calibrated step forward, pitched as a luxury hotel experience that fits with the norms of Saudi society. It comes at a time of an emerging Islamic hospitality sector – hotels, particularly in the Gulf region, that cater to a religious Muslim clientele. Along with prayer rooms, Halal dining, and markers toward Mecca, Islamic hotels have some separation of the sexes. Separate floors for women are available in major hotels around the Kingdom.

Al Luthan may be the first all-women's hotel in Saudi Arabia, but in the West the genre seems thriving, presumably for different reasons. One British travel website, www.travel-quest.co.uk/, showed more than forty hotels and outdoor programs for women in Europe, Canada, and the United States. The Premier Hotel in New York's Times Square has a women-only floor.

"I think we're developing really fast, we're moving really fast, and we're proving ourselves really fast," said Al Dossary. She adds that Luthan plans to open more locations around Saudi Arabia.

Al Luthan Hotel & Spa, Riyadh, +966 1 480 7799.

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