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In a changing Saudi Arabia, the first dog cafe delights pet lovers

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"Barking Lot" cafe in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf city of Khobar
"Barking Lot" cafe in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf city of Khobar   -   Copyright  FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors
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Dog owners in Saudi Arabia can now enjoy a cup of coffee alongside their pets at a new cafe in the coastal city of Khobar.

Barking Lot which opened its doors in June is the first pet café in the ultra-conservative kingdom where, until recently, dog-walking was banned from public places, as dogs are generally considered ‘unclean’ by Islamic hard-liners.

The Barking Lot's Kuwaiti owner, Dalal Ahmed, said she got the idea during a previous visit to the kingdom.

"I came to Saudi Arabia for a visit with my dog but wasn't allowed to walk on the beach with him. I was very sad and decided to help by opening a coffee shop for people who have dogs and even for those who do not".

FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors
A girl holds her dog at the "Barking Lot" cafe in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf city of KhobarFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors

Young men and women gather at the cafe with dogs of all sizes. Some pets playfully romp around, while others sit on their owners' laps, or wait patiently at the counter as their guardian order drinks.

"The idea of this cafe is very new," said Johara, a Saudi citizen. "It's a distinct place where dogs can come and meet other dogs."

In one section, dogs are treated to washes and blow dries as part of the grooming services offered.

FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors
A dog has a blow dry after a bath at the "Barking Lot" cafeFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP or licensors

For Nawaf, also from Saudi Arabia, it was the first time visiting the cafe, which he described as "beautiful".

"I came here to play with the dogs, which now have a cafe for themselves for the first time in Saudi Arabia," he said.

As more people in Saudi Arabia become pet owners, hangout spots like this one could change local attitudes to dogs.