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Is Jeddah Becoming the Middle East’s Wellness Capital?

Two years since the yoga ban was lifted

Just a few years ago, yoga was strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. But just like the former cinema and driving bans, Vision 2030 has now liberated Saudi yoga lovers across the Kingdom. 

With the Ministry of Trade and Industry having declared it a sport in 2017, yoga studios have been popping up all over the conservative kingdom, with the coastal city of Jeddah serving as the epicentre.

Spearheading yoga’s rise in Saudi is Nouf Marwaai, the founder and head of the Arab Yoga Foundation and Saudi Arabia’s first certified yoga instructor. But the journey there wasn’t easy, Marwaai was once chastised by extremists who thought of the sport as un-Islamic. But thanks to her vehement advocacy for the practice, even Makkah and Medina are now home to their very own yoga studios (without the mixing of genders of course).

But with Marawaai’s studio being based in Jeddah, it’s only natural that her hometown would become a hotspot. Among the city’s most popular studios is the Kingdom’s first ever aerial yoga studio, ran by Roa’a Al-Sahhaf, a 42-year-old mother of three who offers classes in yoga, pole dancing and pilates. 

According to another yoga instructor in the coastal city, demand for classes is only increasing. She now teaches over 200 students per week, according to an interview with StepFeed.

Having been just two years since the ban was lifted, yoga’s popularity is only bound to increase, and Nouf Al Marawaai is making sure that happens. The instructor launched NAcademy, an educational institute specialised in heath and wellness, offering courses on yoga, Ayurveda and wellness.

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