Since taking power in 2005, King Abdullah, the ageing monarch, has given women a bigger role in public life. In 2009 Norah al-Faiz was appointed deputy minister for education, the highest post attained by a woman in government. Last year 30 women took their seats in the Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 members, also appointed by the king. And women are due for the first time to vote and stand in municipal elections—the only ones permitted in the kingdom—albeit that only half the seats are elected and that the councils are pretty toothless.
In the private arena changes are afoot, too. This year Somayya Jabarti became the first female editor of a daily newspaper, the Saudi Gazette. More women are working, including running their own businesses, though the female unemployment rate remains a lofty 32%. The first female-run law firm opened this year, after the authorities lifted a ban preventing women law graduates from practicing.The bad news is related to MERS--middle east respiratory syndrome--which seems to have emerged somehow in Saudi Arabia, as noted today by ABC News:
In addition to the two men in Illinois and Indiana another man in Florida was found to be infected with the disease, after traveling to Saudi Arabia as a health care provider.
The outbreak of the MERS-CoV virus, which stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, has been concentrated in Saudi Arabia, where it was first reported. According to the CDC as of May 16 the virus has been found in 15 countries and a total of 572 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported. Of those infected, 173 people have died.
The disease can lead to acute respiratory illness, fever cough and difficulty breathing. The virus spreads from person-to-person though close contact, but might also be transmitted to humans from animals, according to the CDC. There is no known cure or vaccine.Although the US Centers for Disease Control have not yet issued a ban on travel to Saudi Arabia, you might want to wait a while, if you possibly can. It could be a matter of life or death.