An Egyptian hotel worker was arrested in Saudi Arabia after he appeared in what the authorities describe as an "offensive" video eating breakfast with a female colleague.
The man shared on social media a video of him sharing a meal with the woman, who is wearing a niqab, while laughing and joking. He zooms in on the food they are sharing as the woman waves and can be heard laughing. She is also seen feeding the man something that looks like a french fry.
The video was shared widely on social media. It has sparked outrage in a country which considers it unlawful for a woman to spend time with a man who is not her relative. What seems to have enraged people more is the fact that the woman can be seen feeding the man.
The man and woman are said to be employees of a hotel in Saudi Arabia. “The labour ministry arrested an expatriate in Jeddah after he appeared in an offensive video,” the ministry said.
Saudi Arabia enforces strict segregation for men and women. Women are not allowed to step out of their houses unless accompanied by a man who is their relative. Women and men are not allowed to sit together unless they are close relations.
Recently, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was hailed for trying to bring in reform movement in the country. Cinemas were opened after 35 years and mixed gender concerts were allowed in the country. Decades-long ban against women drivers was also lifted very recently.
The arrest has ignited a cutural war between Egyptians and Saudi Arabians. The Arabic hashtag "an Egyptian having breakfast with a Saudi" has been used over 113,000 times on Twitter, where it has become the centre of a cultural divide. While most Saudi Arabians, including women, questioned why the women too was not arrested, Egyptians generally appeared to be surprised and confused by the incident and wondered how anyone could be arrested for what they regarded as an innocuous video.