Mecca: Dressed in a military khaki uniform, with hip-length jacket, loose trousers and a black beret over a veil covering her hair, Mona stands guard in Mecca, occasionally taking rounds around the Grand Mosque in Mecca monitoring pilgrims.
Mona is among dozen other female soldiers who have joined the military and the first group of Saudi women soldiers to work in Islam’s holiest sites, where they are helping secure the Haj annual pilgrimage.
Saudi Crown Prince has pushed through various social reforms, including upgrading the status of women in the conservative Muslim kingdom so as to attract foreign investment under a diversification drive.
Saudi Arabia has restricted the haj to its own citizens and residents for the second year in a row, barring millions of other pilgrims from abroad in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Samar, another soldier watching pilgrims near the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure that Muslims believe was built by Abraham, said she was encouraged by her family to join the military, after psychology studies.
"This is a huge accomplishment for us and it is the biggest pride to be in the service of religion, the country and the guests of God, the most merciful," she said.
*Excerpts from NDTV