Inspired by her late father’s career, Mona decided to join the military and the first group of Saudi women soldiers to work in Islam’s holiest sites, where they are helping secure the Hajj annual pilgrimage.
Since April, dozens of female soldiers have become part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birth places of Islam.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed through social and economic reforms as part of plans to modernize the conservative Muslim kingdom and attract foreign investment under a diversification drive.
Under his reform plan, known as Vision 2030, the crown prince lifted a driving ban on women, allowed adult women to travel without permission from guardians and granted them more control over family matters.
Saudi Arabia has restricted the Hajj 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.