Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our World: What Saudi Women Wear


 Even after five years of living here in Saudi Arabia, I'm afraid I am still not used to seeing women dressed in black cloaks from head to toe.  It still jars my senses - yet I am one of them!

These women are wearing the long black cloaks called abaya that all women in Saudi Arabia wear when out in public.  The two women on the outside wear a type of overhead abaya, which is all one piece and very loose, revealing absolutely none of the female form at all.  Most abayas that I've seen start at the neck and then the head scarf (hijab) is separate.   Many Saudi women also wear the niqab (veil) over their faces - although it might just be my imagination, but I feel like I am seeing more and more women without the veil lately.  The veil is not required by Islam.  Abayas with embellishments and colors are seen more commonly now too.  I wrote a post this past summer called "Embracing the Abaya" on my other blog, Susie's Big Adventure, with more photos of different abayas.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT.



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29 comments:

Fun60 said...

I have mixed feelings about being completely veiled. From a personal point of view I find it difficult to engage in conversation when I cannot see the other person's face.

ladyfi said...

I too want to look twice! A lovely shot.

Sylvia K said...

A great capture, Susie, but I feel the same way as the others -- it would be very difficult for me to do as well. Hope all is going well with you and your family!! Have a good weekend!

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Fun60 - At least with most Saudi women, you can see their eyes, but it's still sometimes hard to determine whether to try to engage them in conversation or not. Sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised though.

Susie of Arabia said...

Thanks, LadyFi!

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Sylvia - Great to hear from you. We are doing well, thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

I cannot imagine this kind of garment being practical. I will note that the workmen in the picture are wearing Western styled attire. There is no way this kind of garment is practical for anyone who has to work outside of the house (I guess that is the point isn't it). The Saudis have made a fetish of modesty and women seem to bare all the responsibility for being super modest. I will note that in the last 60's years as Catholic religious women moved into the suburbs and had to drive they mostly abandoned garments that were a like this (if my memories of what someone said they were worse since they were made of wool). I certainly understand that you need to make peace with your surroundings, but that doesn't make this kind of getup practical.

Gary said...

Sort of like jeans and the baseball cap, of course without the religious overtones, in North America. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Susie of Arabia said...

It is not at all practical, Jerry. I would much more prefer to wear long loose pants. Many abayas drag along the floor and can easily get caught in escalators and the wheels of shopping carts. I have tripped many times going up stairs. Impractical and dangerous.

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Gary - I'll take jeans and a baseball cap any day...

Janet said...

Definitely extreme. So glad I'm free to wear jeans and sneakers in public.

Susie of Arabia said...

Hello, Janet - I'm much more appreciative of my life that I had in America now that I'm living in Saudi Arabia.

Linda Kittmer said...

Wow. I hadn't realized that even American women were expected to wear the abayas. Is this strictly required or do you do it as a sign of respect?

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Linda - All women are required to wear abayas when out in public. It's the religious law of the land to dress modestly. Women in other countries manage to dress modestly without having to wear the abaya, but not here.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Quite interesting. Here in Tulsa there are lots of families from the Middle East because of the University of Tulsa Petroleum Engineering dept. I see quite a variety of head coverings but yet to see my first abaya. Saudi women wear the abaya when the visit other countries?

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Yogi - It's really up to the Saudi woman when she visits other countries. Many of them prefer just to dress modestly without the abaya, so they don't stand out so much. Here, if a woman does not wear the abaya, she would stick out.

Dina said...

Thanks for the good explanations that help me understand better.

Gattina said...

Besides the fact that it is rather boring to see everybody covered in black, I don't care as long as I can see the face when I talk to a woman !
In a way it's also practical because you can go out naked or in your pajama, even with curlers on your head !

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Such a controversial topic Susie, I'm so happy that I don't personally have to wear one, although on a bad day a veil would work well haha! Personally I believe in live and let live, whatever a person has to do right.

Anonymous said...

hi ... Im from saudi arabia Im 17 years old female
which you said is all right BUT I dont agree with saudi people that every wamen should wear this thing
like me Im soooooo sad and tired from it but I can do anything which saudi mens hate if I dont want to die
many many girls cant say anything even that they dont want to wear it because we are so scared .... also we cant drive cars or anything else in the public only because we are girls ... we cant go outside alone without a man
we are dieing here slowly

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Anonymous - I hear you. Please don't despair. I have seen many changes for women in just the five short years I have been here in Saudi Arabia. You and your friends are the new young generation - and you can make change happen here. It does take patience and a lot of work, but together you can do it. Get your education and give Saudi women a voice. The more of you and your friends who do this, the louder your voices will be. There are many women in your country who want change. I am not Saudi, so I cannot speak for you. I will help in whatever way I can, but really these are things that Saudi women must do from within. My best wishes to you - I support you!

Anonymous said...

There is a famous saying " When you are in Rome do as the Romans do" Catholics !! so lady when you are in Arab! wear what the Arab wear stop whining again n again regarding Abaya

Susie of Arabia said...

To Anonymous - There is nothing in this post that can be construed as me whining about the abaya. Why don't you stop reading something else into what I write?

Anonymous said...

hope u don't mind me calling you lady ! well but the thing is that you are portraying the abaya as if it is unjustice or sign of inequality towards women in Muslim society. I agree with you that men should also be dressed modestly many of them do but there are always some spoiled eggs in our society for which they have formed haia or mutawwa(I don't know the exact name for that police).You never mentioned that abaya in a good sense have you ever written about women in bikni back home ? is it good in you eye to wear that way in public ! I would really appreciate if you ever write regarding Western n Muslim women

Susie of Arabia said...

Anonymous - What is wrong with you? You are assuming things that I did not say. Nowhere did I say the abaya is a symbol of "unjustice" or "inequality" towards women. The fact is that women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear abayas when they are out in public. The fact is that men in Saudi Arabia can pretty much wear whatever they want, as long as they are covered from the waist to the knees. These are the facts - do you dispute this? I personally would rather not have to wear a black cloak over my regular clothes when I am out in the intolerable heat - black absorbs heat. Why do you think Saudi men wear white? White reflects the heat and makes one cooler than if they are wearing black. Stop assuming that I am saying things that I am not.

Anonymous said...

It is not necessary to wear black abaya for example blue abaya is famous in Afghanistan but with a different style, In Pakistan women often wear a big shawl to cover them instead of abaya. And in Islam women in there mid 50-60 can only wear shawl in public for modesty but culturally black abaya has become a colour of abaya. Like Kiswa the cover of Holy Qabaa is often been green in past if i am not wrong but now black is adopted as it permanent colour during Saudi Arabian rule.
Now let me tell u a fact that you might know that OUR BELOVED PROPHET PEACE BE UPON HIM used to wear black shawl
And sorry if i assumed u wrong but ur captions and pictures which speak a thousand words give a perception of injustice

Anonymous said...

And another thing according to Bible(which is not in it's original state now) it is compulsory for women to cover their heads you can check Ahmed deedat debate on this on youtube also this one is not for u but for ur western friends

Susie of Arabia said...

In Jeddah where I live, one can see some women wearing abayas with color, but the vast majority still wear just black. In Riyadh, black is the norm. Black abayas are generally worn in Saudi Arabia and deviations from that attract attention, which defeats the whole purpose of the abaya.
This is a photo of Saudi women walking down the street and the title is "What Saudi Women Wear." I still don't understand how you perceive this post as injustice.

Anonymous said...

Hi, when you see the terrible imodest dress in many western countries ..... i think abaaya, hijab, niqab ec NOT such a bad idea. Modest dress now much more common here in London