RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabian authorities have detained an Egyptian hotel worker who appeared in an online video eating breakfast with a female Saudi colleague, said the labour ministry, which also summoned the hotel owner for questioning.
The world’s top oil exporter is pushing a host of economic and social reforms, including ending a ban on women driving and opening up new sectors for women, in a bid to end dependency on crude revenues. But some conservative traditions have not been as quick to change in the deeply religious Muslim kingdom.
In footage shared widely on social media, the pair eat breakfast at a desk and wave at the camera. At one point the woman, wearing a traditional black robe covering all but her hands and eyes, feeds the man a piece of food.
A labour ministry statement on Sunday said an inspection team had visited the unidentified hotel in the western city of Mecca and detained the Egyptian for violations including working in a profession restricted to Saudis, without providing details.
The hotel owner was also summoned “for failing to adhere to spatial controls for employing women”, the statement added.
Government regulations stipulate that workplaces should ensure a private setting for female employees separate from males, but in practice this is not uniformly applied.
The public prosecutor later issued a statement urging foreign residents to adhere to the kingdom’s laws and respect its values and traditions.
(Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)