Saudi Arabia inaugurated on Wednesday its first-ever fully integrated coed university, and its ruler declared the institution will be a "beacon of tolerance" in a world attacked by extremists.
The multibillion dollar King Abdullah Science and Technology University, or KAUST, boasts state-of-the-art labs, the world's 14th fastest supercomputer and one of the biggest endowments worldwide. It breaks many of the conservative country's social taboos by allowing, for the first time, men and women to take classes together.
Saudi officials have envisaged the postgraduate institution as a key part of the kingdom's plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub – its latest efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.
Saudi royals and dignitaries attended the inauguration ceremony outside the coastal city of Jeddah, where the university is located.
"Humanity has been the target of vicious attacks from extremists, who speak the language of hatred," King Abdullah said at the inauguration. "Undoubtedly, scientific centers that embrace all peoples are the first line of defense against extremists. And today this university will become a house of wisdom ... a beacon of tolerance."