This year’s first-ever Diriyah Season in Saudi Arabia, a month of scheduled iconic events such as Formula E, tennis and entertainment, is arguably bigger – and more importantly, more inclusive – than any event season the country has seen thus far.
One of these events is the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, where the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia to ride for the Kingdom in an Olympic-level event, Dalma Malhas, is going to compete in her home country for the first time ever.
When she competed in 2010 in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, she won the Bronze medal in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to win an Olympic medal at the time.
Since then, she has gone to train in many other parts of the world, including Rome, where she lived with her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, who also competed internationally in show jumping and has served as a board member of the Saudi Equestrian Federation.
Malhas comes from a line of female fighters and trailblazers - her mother, aside from opening the first proper equestrian centre in Jeddah, was also the first ever woman appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee in 2008.
But until now, she has yet to show her prowess in her country of origin. “It’s a rendezvous I’ve been dreaming about for a very long time. I am really excited, this is going to be a first time for me competing on home soil. I’ve been all over the world, I did the World Championships, I’ve really been everywhere except Saudi Arabia," she said.
Now, she’ll be competing in the festival, which takes place December 12-14 and 19-21, with the mixed Saudi team. Although they have never ridden together on Saudi soil, they have before at the Nations Cup in October’s Morocco Royal Tour.
Diriyah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was just recently restores and inaugurated, becoming now a locus of cultural heritage and entertainment. Besides Malhas, the first Saudi race car driver, Reema Juffaili, will also be competing at Diriyah's upcoming Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, making it a historic moment for women in the country.