Saudi Arabia – I Dared to Go Out without an Abaya

It finally happened. I actually went out and by out I mean publicly visible in Riyadh without an abaya. But overhead_abaya_ha31I’m getting a little ahead of this story. I’m not a fond advocate of the abaya but I will wear one when it is necessary. With the colder weather now in Riyadh, I typically just wear a jacket as a travel to and from work, leaving my abaya at home. Because once I am at work, I am not required to wear an abaya. One day I received a phone call while at work from a friend suggesting we get together after work and have dinner out. I had not seen this friend for a while so I was happy to meet up with her. It did not occur to me until I was enroute that I did not have an abaya and we were going out to public establishments. The first thing I did was call her and tip her off. I told her I was willing to test the waters by foregoing the abaya rather than risk substantial delays fighting traffic to go home, don an abaya and then head back up. She was game too to see what, if anything would happen.

The first stop sans abaya was at a popular Riyadh restaurant. We entered the restaurant and while the restaurant staff looked curiously at my jacket sans abaya, not a word was said. In the restaurant we were escorted to a private room where I removed my jacket and my friend removed her abaya. We had an enjoyable uninterrupted meal. She then asked me if I wished to go furniture shopping with her. Now we both realized this would be more public but we were game. We do not get enough opportunities to enjoy each others company.

To make the long story short, we visited 6 different furniture stores. Again, I received some curious looks and there were more people about both Saudis and expats. However not a single person said a word about me being out sans abaya. Now granted, my jacket did come below the knee and was bulky. I was wearing it with blue jeans so one could see my blue jeans from the knees down. I realize I was fortunate that I did not encounter any muttawas while out and about as it could have been a very different evening. But I must confess that it felt so good to feel more “free” as I was out and about without the trailing abaya for once.

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361 Responses

  1. Good for you!!! I’m so glad you didn’t get caught by the religious police. I’ve been dying to do this, but my hubby would kill me. I have the biggest smile on my face right now because of what you did. I’m surprised that no one said anything to you, but I’m pleased too!!! Go, Bedu!!!

  2. oh! its good that no religious police observed you. its a good success trial

    please dont take risk, sister!

    you have the almighty’s blessing – thats why you were not caught

  3. I’m sure you had a wonderful sense of freedom and adventure, as well as the ability to conduct a mini sociological study!
    In that spirit, how would you have responded if a Muttawa had addressed you? In future could you have an “emergency abaya” handy if you chose to? Could your friend have supplied an extra abaya? (wrecking the sense of freedom and adventure of course :-) ).
    Like Susie, if I were to find the courage to do something like this I would be facing uxoricide. We have to live vicariously through your abayaless wanderings about in Riyadh! :-)

  4. IIRC, for foreign women an Abaya is not required by law.

    I always see foreign women in Dammam walking around without Abayas.

  5. Dammam is not Riyadh. Foreign ladies always wore abayas in Riyadh, but not always scarves.

    Going without an abaya sounds like a dangerous act; I would never consider it. I hope you don’t do it again! You might experience unpleasant encounters, and not only with the mutawwa!

  6. Good for you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but
    be careful!

  7. In case I wasn’t clear, I too am concerned for your safety and have had enough vicarious abayalessness by this one “experiment” on your part. :-)

  8. AA Carol,

    Perhaps we get the wrong news here in the U.S. but I was watching 60 Minutes or Dateline a few weeks ago where they reported in Saudia at a big oil place that started with an “A”. May have been Amron??? Sorry I don’t quite remember and don’t recall exactly the location. Jiddah??? Anyway, the women were driving themselves to work without a hijab or abaya and were filmed in pant suits! Are there different dress codes for different regions of Saudia and different nationalities? Thanks for any info you may be able to share about this.

  9. There are some expat women here in Riyadh at least who routinely do not wear abayas. Like me, they wear a jacket or a long sweater instead and their clothes are not revealing or controversial.

    Female diplomats posted to Riyadh are also advised that it is their choice when they go to a foreign ministry, such as Foreign Affairs, whether they wish to wear an abaya or not.

    I think that gradually in Riyadh more women are starting to go without an abaya but the emphasis is on conservative dress. Whereas in perhaps Damman or Jeddah you’ll see more progressing more quickly.

    Much as I may not like it, when with my husband it is more prudent to wear an abaya otherwise we’d be bound to be stopped and questioned by muttawa or others as that would likely be pushing the envelope too much for this culture to see a traditionally dressed Saudi man with a western woman sans abaya.

    tina – I believe you are referring to aramco.

  10. Carol

    Yes, you are exactly right! I knew it started with an A. What an amazing place that is!!!

  11. I am curious…were you wearing a hijab or other form of headcovering when you were sans abaya?

  12. Tina, on the Aramco compound you live pretty much as you would in America…Western women to do not wear the abaya…and even wear shorts (nothing scandalous…but to work out), etc. In the Eastern province (i.e. Khobar, Dammam) I see western women without the Abaya. Myself, on the camp, I dress, “normal”, and fashionable and I drive myself where ever I need to go. When I leave the compound, I can not drive, and I wear the abaya (which I resent…but when in Rome), but I will not cover my hair. I carry a scarf in case I meet some over zealous Muttawa…but when I was stopped by the Muttawa…they never asked me to cover my hair…they just wanted to know if my husband and I were married…and once he got that I was American…he backed off.

  13. Personally I’m not happy to see women out without abyas. Many choose not to wear an abya out of total arrogance and for them I say “get on a plane and go” however it is custom here, it is an insult to so many so why do it? The hard feelings that it causes amongst Saudis in their country it surely isn’t worth going about without an abya on. Carol I’m sure you know the feeling of many Saudis when they see foriegn women in thier country going about ignoring what is a cultural accepted standard. so why do it?

    Do all women like wearing it? nope.. but why do foriegners feel it is their right and privelage to push it?

  14. Sara – no. I choose not to wear a hijab and rarely wear a head cover unless in Makkah or other place where it is appropriate to wear one.

    Nzingha – This is where we will just have a difference of opinion. If it is possible to go without one, I will choose to do so. I’ll wear it when necessary but that’s it.

  15. I’ve seen a few women here in Riyadh going without an abaya in public places, such as shopping malls and the grocery store. I have to be honest, and say that I think it is disrespecting the culture and country that they are guests in. I know that it may not be your intent to be disrespectful Carol, but I’m sure that that is how it is recieved by a lot of Saudis.
    Every woman who comes here knows that an abaya is a “requirement” so I don’t see the big deal.
    If Saudi ladies want to challenge the rules of their society, then they should feel free, but I don’t believe it’s up to foreigners to do so.

  16. AA- Carol,

    I was thinking the exact same thoughts as UmmSumayah. While your intent was not to disrespect (as your blog clearly demonstrates your immense respect for KSA), such actions have the *appearance* to the Saudi public of cultural superiority and expat arrogance.

    Even the same Saudis who will go abaya-less when traveling abroad resent such an affront to their traditional mores.

    Just my 2 cents…

  17. My personal feeling is that Carol merely did what I would imagine quite a few Saudi women wish they could do…but are fearful of the outcome. She may have stepped on some cultural toes by going without an abaya…but maybe she opened some cultural minds as well…a little bit. When Arabs come to America they are free t o wear as they like…why cant we have the same privelidge in their country…as long as we are dressed respectfully?

  18. Female doctors, nurses, and medical students are frequently seen in public not wearing an abaya. Instead they were a hijab and a long white jacket over pants or jeans, and I’ve never heard of them getting harassed by anyone official. My sister in law (a med student) does this all the time.

  19. Carol- You can choose to do whatever you want.. but the question still remains why do it? Why insult the people of the country in which you live? Why go against the norms and become another one of those insulting western women?

    I find it odd especially considering you feel it isn’t your place as an outsider in this country to have a voice in changes that occur here. Isn’t opting to go w/out an abya actually doing just that and a bit more “in your face” about it?

    And feel free to ignore my questions but you put yourself out there with this one so I’m gonna ask :)

    coolred- Saudi isn’t America it isn’t a country that claims freedoms being the great rights of those who are in that country. In fact it is the very opposite. Until that time comes when they say ok not wearing an abya is ok go like other GCC countries and wear what you wish than put on your abya, jazz it up if you wish, resent the fact you have to put it on and hate in your heart but wear it.

  20. Good for you Carol.

    Regarding insulting others, if people are so sensitive that they get insulted because a woman chose to exercise freedom, then that is their problem. It is backwards logic to feel guilty for not appeasing people that did not get harmed from your action.

    By the way I am a Saudi and I know hundreds of other Saudi’s that would not have got insulted in this situation.

  21. Yay, for Saudi in US.

    Bedu OMG!!!!! You really scared me with this post! Where does this sudden shocking anarchistic streak come from???
    (streak = pun)
    Yeah cool and all that, but I think it’s really scary! What if your get swiped into a white GMC, dumped into some jail, and we don’t know where you are????
    And all the while I have been working my fingers to the bone making you a punk-hello-kitty-abaya????
    I’m getting the impression you are getting more and more subversive!!! Your husband is seriously neglecting his duty in keeping you subdued! Because, people who are not in agreement with Bedu’s shocking adolescent behaviour, you can’t really blame her personally: it’s all her husband’s fault !

  22. Why assume all saudies will get all insulted by seeing a woman wearing a white labcoat instead of a black abaya? Would be lovely to hold a poll after she passed by; It’s quite possible a lot of saudi people would have not been insulted at all, but thought instead; ”Great, wish I would dare to do that”!!
    Anyway if you look at old photographs from saudi arabia you realise that abaya and veiling are a fairly recent invention. And enforcing it on foreign women is even more recent.

  23. I have seen many woman walking around without 3baya in Damam (for quite some time now) and have recently (within the last year) started to spot many expat woman walking around without 3baya in the malls.. I must add that these women are dressed conservatively (nothing tight or anything of the sort).. and I must add that through my personal observations the majority seemed to be a littlle bit on the older side.

  24. Wow, you are a gutsy woman!

  25. I have to agree with Nzinga, Umm Sumayah, Naeem. I do think that such experiments are not suitable for foreigners and I was quite amazed to read about it on your blog. I was indeed shocked Carol. I always thought that you were more “diplomatic” ;). I am a Muslim, foreigner, married to a Saudi. As a Muslim, I love to cover, I do not perceive wearing abaya as a restriction. As a wife of a Saudi and a foreigner, even if I perceived it as a “terrible must”, I would not dare to
    take it off, as it would be simply not in place, and would be considered as a disrespectful act and arrogance.
    There are some Saudi women who do not want to cover at all, but what then shall we see in the streets, if abayas were left at home? Where does this shall lead to? Step by step, shall we uncovered at all and introduce here “Western” manners? There is some Saudis could learn from the Westerners, like a bit more personal culture and patience while waiting in the line… But please not for worse…. Foreigners brought a lot of good to Saudi Arabia, changed a lot of things for better, but there are also changes which in the opinion of many (muslims, Saudis or not, living in here), lead not to good things, one of them is “loosing up” morality and modesty.

  26. To Aafke: For sure there is a lot of Saudi men who would like to see women uncovered in Saudi Arabia. There is a lof of Saudi men who would like to freely date women, to cheat more easily on their wives, to drink freely beer in the street, go to pubs, etc. etc. The question is: where does this lead to…. What’s good in it? “Freedom”? Come on…

  27. Carol, a question just came to my mind: what does your husband, your mother in law think about what you did? Please do not make my curiosity to “kill the cat” ;-).

  28. I know it may surprise folks as I do encourage for folks to follow cultural norms but I am speaking very personally here… I do not like the abaya. I find it a hindrance to my style of walking and always have to be careful it does not get caught in car doors, elavators, escalators, etc., as well as I dislike how it grabs and holds the heat in the scorching summer. So if I have chances to go without out, whether wearing a jacket, coat or lab coat, I do so. I always carry a scarf when I travel and many times I will have the dreaded abaya in the car but just not wearing it, but in case… And in regards to my husband’s family, to include my MIL, they have been surprisingly supportive. My MIL has some difficulty walking so when we are out together she is usually holding my arm as we walk with me sans abaya while she is in abaya and fully veiled as is her custom. Although as I mentioned earlier, when with my husband, depending on where we are going, I may wear the abaya to avoid any possible confrontation. I am actually starting to notice more women in Riyadh going without abayas. And as my MIL told me and Aafke also pointed out, in earlier years even Saudi women went out sans abaya.

  29. Some muslim women wear the niqab in the West which offends some of the locals, usually the older generation, should they be asked to remove it? If Saudi is going to welcome foreigners it cannot expect them to behave and act like Saudis. You can dress conservatively without “loosing up” morality and modesty”

  30. Kalimat, my thoughts exactly. Change the wording a bit and imagine it is a woman in hijab or niqab that is offending the sensibilities of the Americans in their own country. The women in this country have fought long and hard to be free from the mindset that says that they are responsible for the actions of men and then you get these damned arrogant women coming here and insulting our culture with all their arrogance thinking that they are so beautiful that they have to cover to protect themselves. To them I say ‘get on a plane and go!’

    I’m sure you know the feeling of many Americans when they see foriegn women in thier country going about ignoring what is a cultural accepted standard. so why do it?

  31. Carol ~ Did you holler out “Towanda”? ;)

  32. “started to spot many expat woman walking around without 3baya in the malls…” IN Riyadh… I realised I didn’t finish my sentence.

    Just wanted to add…I know my maternal grandmother always tells me about how 3bayas have evolved with time here in Saudi. She said that back in the day.. they didn’t even wear 3baya’s, but rather wore long flowy dresses that covered them… so I get what your saying Carol.

  33. Lynn…. I just wanted to make a point that many of the woman that cover up, are American woman who are converts.. American woman that have chosen to follow Islam to its fullest … I understand the point you are trying to make.. But I don’t believe that in America one is told to act a certain way or to dress a certain way for religious purposes.. Here in Saudi, people are informed prior to coming that they must cover, and dress modestly.. they are made aware of whats accepted and what is deemed unacceptable PRIOR to coming to KSA (from each of their respective embassies).. what I believe some of the woman here are saying is that if you have chosen to come here knowing full well what the customs are, and know very well what is accepted here.. then you should just follow it and not rock the boat.

  34. *stands up and applauds* Good for you Carol. I do worry about your safety though. Hopefully, the religious police don’t get you. To all of you who are offended or shocked um… deal!

    In reality who is Carol going without an abaya in any way harmful to you? If the SA government all of a sudden said an abaya isn’t necessary you can still choose to wear one if you’d like. People do thing all the time that others take offense to and sometimes you just have to live and let live. Nginzha, et all, your argument sounds suspiciously like a child who whines at her parents that “all my friends are wearing X so I should too”. Personally, I think foreign woman should get a break and be able to choose when or if they want to wear an abaya. Keep in mind it’s not like Carol went around in a bikini flaunting her flesh for all to see.

    I will never understand the propensity of religious people to control what other people do. Do you really need justification in your own beliefs that you need to have everyone else conform to your narrow ideals? And before anyone thinks I’m bashing Islam I hold this idea for any controlling religion, including my own (LDS). Then again I was raised Buddhist so that might have something to do with my “live and let live” attitude.

    Sometimes all it takes it one good person to take a stand for good to happen. While evil often comes not because of evil persons but because good people stand by and do nothing.

  35. Om Lujain,
    “But I don’t believe that in America one is told to act a certain way or to dress a certain way for religious purposes”…
    actually that isn’t entirely accurate, they aren’t told by the government (thankfully, because I’d go crazy) but if you think about certain religious groups such as the Amish, they do have a dress code of sorts. There are other, lesser known religious groups in the US, generally considered fundamentalist that have dress codes too. The FDLS has been in the news a lot lately and their women where long dresses, no pants. Then you have the Orthodox Jews who also tend to dress a certain way.

    Carol I think you are brave and I love that you took a chance and had no problems.

  36. Thanks for pointing that out for me Monica.. but I don’t see us being told prior to Coming to the US that we must follow certain dress codes (Amish, Orthodox Jewish etc). What you mentioned is that there are certain groups within the US that have some sort of dress code, and I have no arguments with that.

    Anyway, I have no problem with what Carol did, I just hope we don’t see the following in a paper…

    “American Blogger, American Bedu detained by the religious police for daring to discard of her 3baya.. :D”

    Take care :)

  37. “…if abayas were left at home? Where does this shall lead to? Step by step, shall we uncovered at all and introduce here “Western” manners?…”

    I assume you mean by “Western manners” that you mean being undressed to the point of nudity? Carol did not indicate in anyway that she was in a state of undress…only that she didnt wear the abaya…why is there always this mentality that your either wearing the abaya or your naked? Nothing in the middle exist?

    “…To Aafke: For sure there is a lot of Saudi men who would like to see women uncovered in Saudi Arabia. There is a lof of Saudi men who would like to freely date women, to cheat more easily on their wives, to drink freely beer in the street, go to pubs, etc. etc. The question is: where does this lead to…. What’s good in it? “Freedom”? Come on…”

    So your saying that women in Saudi are meant to dress the way they do because Saudi men deem it necessary…otherwise this “freedom” might lead to drinking, fornicating and God knows whatelse? by Saudi men? Freedom is the choice to do good or to do bad…covering up womens bodies does not prevent any of those vices from happening…which we all know…so the insult here is not Carol removing her “obligatory” abaya and offending natives…its the natives of that country who presume to pressure women into covering in some misguided belief that covering a womans body will keep certain “freedoms” from happening. …and then turning around and putting that “belief” squarely in the realm of “religious speak”…(not to mention still indulging in all said freedoms…but hypocritically claiming some perceived moral high ground)

    The abaya is a cultural peice of clothing that has nothing to do with religion…if anyone deserves to be offended…its the women that are raised in that country under the assumption that their beautiful bodies designed by God are “walking fitna” and the core of all human freedoms gone bad…that is not only a shame…but a slap in the face to all women that dress modestly…without God or any religious folk telling them to do so…simply because they want to.

    We dont NEED God/religion to be good people….we are all born with a sense of right and wrong…making women walk around in “garbage bags” does not “insult” anyone but the women that are forced to wear them…native and non native….Muslim and non Muslim alike…

    now let the outcry begin :)

  38. Om Lujain- in Khobar there is a group of Aramcon women who have vowed to stick it to saudi and not wear abyas. Their motivation is arrogant and insulting to Saudis in general. And not something I would support or look to as something that represents the khobar area.

    Aafke- I’ve spoken to several saudis, women and men, about this very issue and for the most part they find it offensive. To them it is an assult on their very cultural practices. Add in that many saudis see that expats come and make more money, have more benefits, have more freedoms (in movement, school choices, ect) live life styles many do not and going w/out an abya is just another insult upon the fact that many (expats) look down on local saudis. There tends to be a whole lot more that goes into it than just a few meters of cloth.

    Carol- do you wear a long abya? Why not hem it so it doesn’t get caught in things. I like mine a certain length and most expat women tend to like their shorter than usual.

    Kalimat- the thing that bothers me about that argument is that Saudi and America are not the same. Neither country claims to be the same in fact Saudi is very clear.. there are very limited freedoms.

    No freedom of the press
    No freedom of speech
    No freedom of dress
    No freedom of movement
    No freedom religion
    No freedom….. add in a slew of other things.

    If we want to make America the same as Saudi we have to take away many freedoms. Do we really want that? part of the beauty of America is that a woman can choose to veil and be free to do so and the laws will support her. Yea some people will have a problem with it but with freedom we can say stick it!

    In Saudi Carol can be detained her family can be put through a problem. People can actually make a complaint against her and cause her problems she never thought possible over a few meters of fabric.

    Add in that more often than not Saudis are offended seeing foriegn women choosing to not comply w/ the cultural norms. Personally I don’t have an issue w/ the abya at all. I don’t find it limiting, bothersome or in anyway limiting to me as an individual woman. I personally feel that the idea that it is a problem that hinders women in anyway is one that we (women) need to stand up and say FABRIC DOES NOT LIMIT WOMEN and loudly so. I also don’t personally choose to offend the citizens of country I choose to live in by further perpetuating a rift between the foriegn and the locals.

    Yea I might sound like a big whiney child to some.. but so be it. As a woman who lives here I wouldn’t advize any to forgo the abya for the very reasons I’ve given above.

  39. OnigiriFB:

    It’s not a matter of physical harm coming to the people around; it’s a matter of disrespect to the social norms of the society you live in. Moreso, if the law or customs require women to wear an abaya in public, then not doing so is akin to going to the US and over-speeding and breaking the traffic lights.

    Not everyone agrees with all laws, but people are expected to be respectful to the laws. Your Buddhist arguement of ‘live and let live’ doesn’t stand here, simply because all expats are forewarned of such laws prior to their arrivals in the country.

    I’ll give you another example explaining why your arguement falters; so back in Canada, a by-law has been passed where there is to be no smoking within public buildings and restaurants. If I were to follow your ‘live and let live’ mantra, I would still smoke in a restaurant, maybe from afar as to not harm anyone through passive smoking; but nevertheless, still smoke. Would that be alright? Needless to say, that’s a rhetorical qurey I pose for you, hoping that you ponder over your life-motto and the fact that it just doesn’t fly!

  40. “FABRIC DOES NOT LIMIT WOMEN…”

    I agree whole heartedly Nzingha…but I might also add that…

    FABRIC DOES NOT LIMIT MEN…from doing the things they were intending to do all along…whether the woman was decked out in black flowing fabric or not….so?

    why insist on women wearing it…when its not religious but cultural…cultural to the people that live there and profess to be Saudis…but why make non Saudis/non Muslims wear it? as long as they are dressed modestly…

    Saudi men are quite happy and free to wear western jeans etc while out and about…and their culture is to wear the thobe…so if they are free to enjoy other cultures clothing…why cant the women as well? Saudi and non Saudi alike?

  41. The point is, that our definition of morality and modesty differs. Even in diplomacy, you have to respect certain rules, among others dress code, if you attend certain events. “Black and white”, etc. In schools there are often certain regulations, how to dress up. On many American films, I see girls in primary schools dressed in a way, that would not be appropriate for a grown up women. Some time ago, Carol, posted a note here, about Saudi girls and they way they are dressed. I do am shocked very often, when I see Saudi women without their abayas. It is not modesty. It is not suitable what they wear. Even in the presence of other women. I do understand, that you may not like the abaya, but… It is better, trust me. For the whole society.

    Moreover, can we assume that others have the same definition of modesty as we do? And would be dressing up in a modest way without abayas? No… there will be always someone willing to take more off.

    I cannot but think, about all the arguments about the freedom of choice, and freedom of what to wear, and all this blah, blah, blah about FREEDOM. The point is: people do not know how to use the freedom in a proper way. Just look around. You will find examples everywhere!

    Moreover, you cannot think only about yourself while taking actions or making choices, it is good to think about others and about the influence or results that may come from certain behaviors. What for taking such steps, if there is more important things that Saudi women are struggling for? They want to drive since years, do you think that advocating for taking off abayas is more important, better of will help here? No.

    Saudis want to marry who they want (ie. foreigners), but it seems that especially now they are strongly “discouraged” (even though it is not easy to get a permit for marriage with foreigners). Do you think foreign wives of Saudis taking off their abayas in public and advocating for “easing” the customs will help to ease the regulations or will it be another argument that it is better for Saudi society not to issue any more permits?

    Someone said here, that “women are responsible for men’s actions”. In Islam each of us is responsible for our actions and for their consequences. If I drink alcohol, I commit a sin, if I drink driving, I am probably going to hurt someone or kill someone. So the gender does not matter. We all have a way of influencing others. And, we, women have the biggest influence on men. Isn’t it true? Yes, it is. God stated it in the Quran.

    The question which we should ask: what are we trying to achieve by our actions? What good will it bring?

    I would like all of you watch the video, I recently stumbled at and found very impressive. It is about American girl and her choice.
    http://tv.muxlim.com/video/GERXmpeI6oL/Muslim-convert-talking-about-life-before-and-after-Islam/

    Someone said, that women were not wearing abayas at a time in Saudi Arabia. At a time, and not so long ago, people have forgotten here how to pray (the sad thing which is happening again with so many Saudis)! What a “progress” indeed.

  42. Coolred- I’m a Muslim 100% so and I 100% believe that women (and men) are to cover certain parts of their body. For a women I do believe, as a Muslim, by the madate of my chosen religion, that a woman is to cover all of her body except her face, hands and feet with modest unrevealing clothing (see through clothes and that whole tight tight jeans and bossom showing shirts than through on a scarf like some do in Bahrain). How one covers be it an abya, or other cultural dress isn’t an issue for me personally.

    Now that I’ve explained that I don’t dictate the cultural acceptance of dress in Saudi. I’m quite amused with men wearing dresses to me it is odd and I don’t quite get it. But I don’t suggest that a foriegn man come and wear shorts there either. So I tend to be equal that way.

    And I’ll also add that covering doesn’t free men of responsiblity for their actions nor does it mean that perverts won’t be perverts fully covered or not. The Qur’an doesn’t even state this when it addresses the issue of women covering and perverted men.

    Until Saudi opens up a bit with dress put the abya on. Speak out against it all you want.. dress up the abya in ways that amuse you if you choose.. but still wear it. Go over the bridge to Bahrain.. take it off :)

  43. how about re creating the abaya to be a pretty blue color, or pastel, maybe flowers pattern, or geez, how about a color of that particular womens choice???. Its horrifying in black, women look like black ninjas walking around. The least that can be done since it sounds like everyones offended if just a scarf is worn with a long jacket dressed still conservatively.At least stop making the women look dead!!!!> When I first saw a women with an abaya she looked like a funeral, I felt sorry for her,… then I saw men walking in white like angels, I had to ask myself whats up with this.

  44. I will also point out that at this time of year and particularly the most recent weeks it was impractical to wear an abaya in Riyadh. Think about it…it’s cold and one requires a coat so as not to catch a cold or the flu. What is a woman supposed to do? Where the coat under the abaya (and try to get her arms through the abaya sleeves while wearing a bulky coat) or look really silly with the coat atop of the abaya? Nah…..I will forgo the abaya and just wear my knee length bulky (and warm) coat by itself.

  45. Bedu- gets that cold in riyadh? I’ve only needed long sleeve shirts or a sweater. I have a winter abya, which is a heavier fabric and looser in the bust to accomodate a sweater. But I’ve never worn a jacket here.

  46. Nzingha i do not disagree with you, if i was living in Saudi i would wear the abaya. However regardless of the freedoms afforded to people in the West, some will be offended by a woman in a niqab, Carol can get away without an abaya because she is a white American (white privilege) and a niqabi in the West will be able to do so because of freedom. In a multicultural society someone will always be offended. Other than the safety issue, people always break cultural norms and in this instance its minor (it should be as minor as men wearing jeans instead of the thobe as Coolred mentioned).

    Umm Latifa i dont think that Carol is advocating freedom for women through the shedding of the abaya; her intention is not to make a statement if i am correct.

  47. Nizngha – oh yes, it got to zero a few times! And I am one of these folks who gets cold so easily so I appreciate having a warm heavy coat.

    Kalimat et al – my post is not meant to try and insult or offend anyone but I simply decided to share my experience and feelings. And yes, shedding the abaya did indeed provide a sense of freedom.

  48. We can write about modesty, religion, freedom, lack of freedom, oppression, gender inequality, and.., and.., and…

    The fact is that any one of us is but an individual up against the tradition of an entire culture. Some of us are foreigners, besides! Does any one of us really want to blaze the trail of feminism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

    All I can say is, “Ladies, choose your battles wisely.”

  49. Ladies, choose your battles wisely.”

    Every battle that furthers the opening of minds…is a wise battle in my opinion…nothing good is ever given freely it seems.

  50. This post, perhaps more than some others, brings out the range of experiences within Saudi based on region, history, ethnic identity, citizenship, compound living or not, and profession–some of American Bedu’s “contrasts and contradictions”. Moreover, it demonstrates cultural and individual interpretations of Islamic modesty and covering. I respect American Bedu’s choices (including her right to make those choices within Saudi culture) and she is cognizant of the broader impact of her actions on her Saudi family, and the impressions she gives as a foreigner, which would be 2 main decision-making factors (along with the Muttawa) for me if I were in her place.

    I have been in 2 countries where I was specifically warned ahead about “modesty” requirements–Maoist China(requiring modest Western clothing), and post-Khomeini Iran, though only as a visitor so I felt less comfortable taking liberties. Still in Iran I wore a royal blue caftan and head scarf (should have been navy, or black, grey, maroon, brown or dark green) to a evening ceremony, and a darker royal blue jellaba with head scarf as my “professional” uniform in the day.

    Other Western women who chose to dress in modest Western clothing were allowed to do so the first day, but for the official proceedings were asked to cover with an Iranian long cloak/coat and head scarf, and were accompanied (nicely) to buy one. At the official procedings Iranian women wore black chadors (the highest level professors, administrators etc), proper Iranian cloaks, or other Eastern coverings, and head scarves. Just another example of the range within even a highly religiously legislated society.

    In the West, including Canada, niqabs seem to inspire the most angst, with head scarves following much farther behind. A huge range of identifiably Islamic dress can be seen in major cities. All black figures are initially shocking, but older people and Catholics remember “flocks” of nuns looking similar, and others are adapting to this latest multicultural addition to the landscape.

    Back to Saudi and the abaya, cultural change must come from within, as Saudis see fit, even if it is partly inspired by and supported by others. Afterall, that is how China ended footbinding, and female genital excision is losing proponents in Africa (of course, abayas are not in the same category except as being distinct cultural practices). So individuals like those posting and commenting here may make personal choices within cultural frameworks, whether or not they are trying to make a statement, and whether or not that statement has any impact.

  51. Wow…AB: This post, and the comments has indeed been an interesting read.

    Out of curiousity…I wonder if the saudi women feel offended by western women not wearing the abaya because their Saudi men may look at them…and this may cause jealousy?

    I understand the cultural aspect, and as I stated I wear the thing….but personally i feel, if men want to remain righteous, maybe they should gauge their eyes out if they’re tempted to turn a women who is not wearing an abaya into a whore in their minds.

    Like I said…I wear it only when necessary, and I treat it like crap (and mine was quite expensive LOL)…I keep it on the floor in the back of the car, and only put it on when I get out of the car…not when I’m riding in the car, and I will NEVER wear it on the compound.

    BTW: When I see western women without the Abaya…they are always dressed conservatively…so, please stop comparing all Western women with what you see on television, as most of us do not dress like sluts. We ALL SHOULD KNOW BY NOW….that television is just a money making device and sex appeal sells. Even the Arab commercials (especially the one in which the women is walking around tossing her hair, and wiping the window to show that she is “fairer” than what is seen through the glass; the product skin lightner…so much for being proud of your heritage, which I know has nothing to do with this post) are full of sex appeal. Why? To sell product.

    And, hell yes!!! it gets cold here…much to my surprise. And, I didn’t know if I was suppose to wear the coat over the Abaya or under it…so I chose to wear it over the abaya…since if I wore it under the abaya, I thought people would think I was fat. LOL. Hopefully, I didn’t offend anyone with that one. ;)

  52. I am saudi as most readers know, and i have two stories:
    1. several years ago I was wearing an abaya in riyadh with sandals. I’m not sure if my ankles were showing or not, ‘cuz i am pretty tall. Anyhow, a RP smacked me with his stick on my ankles and started screaming at me. I pointed out he shouldn’t be standing around looking at women. Then I got angry, grabbed his stick and smashed it over the hood of a car. (I’m here to tell you that mercedes are well made). Of course, I was arrested =- but I just couldn’t take it anymore. This being KSA and me, having wasta to spare, did not suffer the indignities most women do when they are taken to the police. My baba was called, or rather his office was called, and I was released.
    2. Fast forward to the following year. Once again, I am visiting home from the USA. Now I eschew the niqab, and my hijab is just a piece of cloth/scarf wrapped loosely around my head. NO PROBLEMS!! even though I am clearly a “native”.
    3. Fast forward to last year. Now I am in college, home from the USA. Dressed modestly, sans abaya, niqab, hijab (cuz that’s my style) I set out to meet some friends. NO PROBLEMS!!
    (join in the chorus)..the times they are a-changing.

    AFter that, i chose not to wear the abaya. It is a hindrance. One can dress modestly. ISLAM IS NOT A DRESS CODE, PEOPLE. And I resent people who choose to make it so.

    And I agree with many of you, according to my parents, pre-1975, women didn’t have to cover so much. The long loose dresses made sense as protection from the sun. Some say it was in response to the influx of foreigners chasing after the oil. Look, if men cannot control their thoughts/actions, they are little more than animals. If I were a man (and I know ALL the research that states that men think about sex every three seconds, and I doubt abayas stop that, in fact, I suspect they increase it) I would be insulted that the public would assume I could not control my actions.

    Furthermore, let’s not forget the famous adjunct about women “being 9 parts desire” ( out of 10 folks). Talk about insulting, and how much that has been used against us. Keeping us secluded because we are not trusted. People should view each other with respect.

  53. Mariam–interesting comments as always, and thank you for specifically mentioning that wasta allowed you to suffer minimum harm from your actions. Too often privileged young women I have met from MENA, fail to recognize how far their wasta has protected them and fail to take it into consideration when telling their stories, or advising others directly. Your stories illustrate well the historico-cultural nature of covering and that there is range within a society at any given point in time. Mutual respect is a good moral guideline. Thanks again.

  54. So let me get this right… If saudi man see a totally modestly covered woman, which cover doesn’t happen to be a black abaya, they will all instantely start to drink beer, play poker and ”fornicate”??? (why are religious people so fond of the word ”fornicate”???)

    Aaaaah, that explains it! All these Saudi blokes who zig-zag back towards Riyad after a weekend of drink, drugs, and prostitutes can’t really help it! As there are women sans abaya this behaviour is forced upon them!!!
    That must also be why they don’t turn into dogs and monkeys on the Johnny Walker bridge, but return fully human.

    Or as close as human as they were to begin with….

    I do not except Saudis who take off the abaya themselves when abroad, to act all huffed if somebody does it in KSA.I think saudis should get a grip on themselves and think about other stuff as sex.
    Get a hobby or watever.
    Let me see, some saudis have claimed to be all huffed and insulted if a foreign woman leaves the abaya off.. But then Bedu’s imminently respectable saudi family clearly isn’t. Neither is Saudi in US, a most intelligent and clearthinking SAUDI man!

    Adnan, you go about for a week (in June) fully covered and veiled in layers of black cloth, and then I would like to hear your comment again!

  55. Mariam, waw! what a feasinating comment! I love your anecdote! I though there was less stick-slapping nowadays! Waw! You are even more anarchistic than Bedu! I hope you never get fed up while being in reach of my car!!!!

    It is very interesting to see how ”Islamic covering” is always percieved as a religioud duty, (for women) but if the conversation/explanation continues, it always comes to this: Women must cover because MEN can’t control themselves.

    And from a religious point of view, I have always thought that if God has a problem with our skin he/she would have let us keep our fur!!!
    No, if you think really logically, God made us to be naked and we should walk around as God intended!
    + there is nothing less sexually arousing as a beach full of ordinary human naturists walking around butt-naked.
    Especially if they’re white.
    Brrrrrrrrr….

  56. For the ladies that are speaking for how all Saudi’s feel, can you tell me where you get your data from? Is your interaction with a wide spectrum of Saudi’s, which includes liberals, conservatives, people from different regions, etc.? Saudi is a very complex society and I am really curious how you can speak for all of us.

    Note: much of the information that are provided in cultural training are not truly reflective of Saudi thinking. They reflect the position of conservatives, which have huge influence on what is taught in these programs. And by the way these programs do not say an Abaya is required, rather they emphasize conservative Islamic dress.

    Regarding, “For sure there is a lot of Saudi men who would like to see women uncovered in Saudi Arabia. There is a lot of Saudi men who would like to freely date women, to cheat more easily on their wives, to drink freely beer in the street, go to pubs, etc. etc. The question is: where does this lead to…. What’s good in it? “Freedom”? Come on”

    I think you need to rethink that statement. I do not want to repeat what others said about the bad logic of cause and effect in your conclusion. However, I want to add that when people think about freedoms they aspire to more than your narrow interpretation. Perhaps, you need to reexamine how your view Saudi men while you are at it, as you are using a broad brush of negativity.

  57. I like the abaya style in the picture, did you find it at an online store?

  58. Aafke–oh the visual images! :-)
    Although I was appropriately “covered” in a bathing suit on a Moroccan beach, my husband once told his cousin he had found me so quickly because he “just looked for the whitest one on the beach”– which set them both laughing uproariously about the ?Arab, ?Moroccan, ?French expression “blanche comme le cul d’un coq” (pardon my French). :-)

  59. Wow, I must be then a real jerk here. Foreign women, who converted to Islam after few years of careful studies, married a Saudi and believes that jilbaab (or you can call it abaya) is mandatory (as stated in Quran) and loves to cover in tons of black fabric… Does not mind it and is happy.
    Talking about religion, yes, there is a certain dress and behavior code in Islam, both for men and women. Fist it was indicated in the Quran, then it was explained in sunna. And from the religious point of view, God allowed us to uncover our bodies in front of our husbands and wives fully. In front of others, told us to cover and guide our modesty. How do you think we would have children Aafke, if God covered us with clothes from the top to the bottom? Hahaha.
    reg (if it refers to one my comments) “If Saudi man see a totally modestly covered woman, which cover doesn’t happen to be a black abaya, they will all instantly start to drink beer, play poker and ”fornicate”???”
    No, you got it wrong and flipped the words in the way they suit you. People’s perception of “modesty” differs. Their mentality also. Have you ever wondered why Saudi men have such an awful reputation, especially abroad? Why abroad they are more prone to “fornication” than in Saudi Arabia? And how, BTW, the Saudi government should (lets imagine the abayas are allowed to be hidden in the drawers) set the rules for the “modest dress” code? Promod is okey, but Zara too revealing? Anyone with any idea?

  60. To Saudi in US: I talk on behalf of the following SAUDIS: my mother in law, my sister in law, my husband’s aunts, the daughters of one of the aunts, finally, my husband, and many wonderful Saudi women I had a chance to meet here during more then 5 years of stay and with whom I had a chance to talk about the abaya and niqab. And they were not “extreemely religious” (why here I feel a lot of negativity regarding religious people), I would say most of them were average, middle class Saudi women.
    Regarding Saudi men, I do personally know only few that include: my husband, father in law, brothers of my husband. My knowledge about Saudi men is mostly based on the tales of my Saudi husband and of lots of foreign women who had “met” Saudis while they (Saudi men) were (among others: studying) abroad. T to sum up, I did not say that ALL Saudi men are “bad” and “zigzag” abroad, but said that there is A LOT of Saudis who are not “angels”.
    What is here to rethink? Did I said something that is not true?
    Negativity, no. It is simply reality. Whether you like it, or not.

  61. Umm Latifa
    Ok so let’s see, You had an interaction with your family and friends and some how you are speaking for an entire country. I want to tell you that my family and friends feel differently than you stated. So where does that leave your broad statement? The fact is you just do not know what most Saudis feel about this issue. For anyone to make such conclusion he/she need to back it up by more than my circle of friends thinks that way. Again, Saudi society is very complex and it is not easy from a small sample.

    Regarding, your comments about Saudi men. I understand that there are bad people in every society including Saudi. However, the context of how your statement was brought up leaves the reader with a feeling that we should be only viewed from that narrow perspective.

    Regarding your feelings of hostility against religious people, I think that is your interpretation and it is mistaken in my opinion. What some of us push against is the judgmental attitude some hold against people that do not think like they do. Note I never had an issue with any of your comments regarding your personal choice to cover in Jijjab. I would support that in the US, in Saudi, etc., but what I have an issue with is that you blame others for not following what you think is right. That is the point here.

  62. Allow me to make my stand, as a Saudi who lives in Riyadh, not a religious extremist nor fanatic. But an average Saudi men.

    First of all, this is a law of a country, and who does not respect our law, does not respect the people in it. This is regardless of religion. In other countries, are other rules and you are also bound to follow them. It is a matter of rules and braking them, therefore it is a crime. For example: if I was in a foreign country, I would obey rules of paying taxes from my income, if I do not do it, I would be considered as a criminal. Wearing an abaya is a rule here, I am not sure whether it is a law, but all Saudis (I never saw a Saudi women without an abaya in Riyadh!) are following that rule and expect foreign women to respect it also.

    Moreover, behavior described here by American Bedu, would have a bad influence on my daughters. This is a point of view of a Muslim and father, and now I am talking about religion.

    I can understand the point of view and the way of thinking of a non-Muslim towards Islamic rules, that for example abaya is a burden. But I cannot understand “shouting it out loudly” through the media in the Islamic country and provoking Muslims which are the hosts.

    And no, I do not want to see women here without abayas.

  63. If I were in-charge. I would pack American Bedu back home, so she can wear what she wants there.

    1. She broke a law here.

    2. She speaks about it as if it were a cool thing, encouraging others to follow that.

    That results in confrontation and disrupts the peace and security of a society.

    Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country. Of all the talk you do about respecting others opinions, its more of thrusting your view of ‘freedom’ and ‘culture’ on others.
    If you were to respect and accept that others can hold a different view, then you should have accepted that Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country to begin with.

    You think women will be liberated by your culture. Women will lose their safety they have here. Look at America every 2-3 seconds a woman is raped there. Talk about liberty.

  64. Hmmm, well I’ve said my bit about Saudi diversity, the range of choices within a given culture, and the need for a culture to transform itself as it sees fit from within.

    So 2 “lighter” comments:

    1) Oprah is here to save the day: “Saudi women beat a path to the TV for Oprah” :-) :-)
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/19/mideast/oprah.php

    2) Cross cultural fashion tip: a Moroccan woman’s djelleba normally has slits to just below the knee on each side to ease walking, closes to the neck, and has an attached hood which drapes nicely in the back and can be brought forward for those need to cover the hair (and obscure the face) moments. Available in basic black with/without ornamental trims, and in breathable cottons, silks, wools (avoid the ubiquitous polyester). Can be worn over anything (as long as opaque enough) including pants/jeans/pyjama bottoms for the full-striding “hide the leg glimpsed in the slit” effect. :-)

  65. If the law permits you to go without abaya, then go for it.

    I can see why some Saudis might resent seeing uncovered women though, and for good reasons in my opinion. My sisters in Saudi Arabia hate to cover, but have no choice, and they complain about it constantly. From their point of view, it’s unfair some are granted privileges which they, native women, can only dream about.

    This is not the fault of foreign women, but rather the people who make and enforce those idiotic rules.

    Here in the U.S., on rare occasions, I see Muslim women draped in black. They attract curious eyes, but not much more. The law equally guarantees the freedom to dress like that for everyone, natives or not.

  66. To Saudi in US: I do believe that you got me wrong. Maybe because I am not an English native speaker, and thus may not express myself properly. I did not blame anywhere people for not following what I believe in (did I). I presented my points of view simply, which happen to be shared also by a group of Saudis (as mentioned earlier). So on behalf of them, most of them do not speak fluent English, I dare to open my mouth here. Moreover, I am not the one who set the rule of wearing an abaya in Saudi Arabia. Someone did and it happens that 99,9% of Saudis follow that rule. And it happens that it is not for me as a foreigner to brake it. You have a point, if Saudis want to change it, then voila. But DO THEY?
    To add, I also speak as a Muslim women, trying to unveil my way of thinking and my beliefs, hoping I would be better understood, not resented.

  67. PS. A djellabah has slits for pockets, and for pocket people, like American Bedu, pockets could be stitchedd in here. :-)

  68. BTW, I also had a chance to meet a few American women, married to Saudis or foreigners working in KSA, who love to cover ;).

  69. To Saudi in US: Recommended (as a voice of a Saudi woman): Suzan Zawawi (Saudi journalist, Saudi Gazette) “There is a minority of Saudi women who would like to uncover”. (Another voice in support of my statement ;-)
    http://tv.muxlim.com/video/ZyUTicv_z3T/Saudi-Women-at-Work-part2/

  70. Hi Carol,

    I have stumbled across your blog and find it very interesting. I have a slightly tangential question. It seems many of the women responding to your posts are converts to Islam. I would love to see a post from you about the phenomenon of Western women converts with Saudi husbands.

    My husband is from a Muslim country (not KSA), though he is not practicing or even believing fully. I am a Catholic. I have done alot of thinking about our religious heritages. I have decided there is absolutely no way I could convert for very serious reasons (and my husband is not asking me too). Our children will be raised Catholic, since my husband is non-practicing, and it is important to me. At the same time, it is imperative the children have good will towards their muslim relatives and other muslims in their father’s country.

    I am curious how other women thought about this and why they ended up gravitating to Islam. If it happened before marriage, I am still curious, as, having seriously studied it, I found I could not believe Mohammad as a true prophet – he reminds me of Joseph Smith from the Mormons. (No offense, I do find Muslims to be very devout and sincere in their desire to please God, and I am not claiming every Catholic or even Catholic hierarchy is perfect)

    I think it would be very interesting and give your readers something really substantial to discuss. Thank you.

  71. Got the facts wrong in my earlier comment… the correct fact is: every 2-3 min a woman is raped in the US.

    I’m no Saudi, but as a Muslim felt insulted, as I’m sure many others do, as we consider Saudi Arabia an Islamic country, the place Muslims can live under their divine law.

    (PS: sorry for duplicating, please post only one… just added 4 words to make it more clear)

  72. @Abu Omar,True, you are not in Charge and thank god for that. My 2 cents about your hostile comment about others is I would like to make a recommendation that you pack your stuff and head to the nearest cave so you can live in peace without ever getting insulted by others.

    @Umm Latifa, I think this is good exchange. I want you to consider another approach to this. Hundreds of thousands of women come to Saudi during Hajj every year. The great majority of them do not wear abaya, but rather conservative Islamic dress. No one gets offended. There is no rule that women should wear abaya and certainly there are many women of different Arabic nationalities that live in Saudi and wear just a hijab.

  73. In Eastern Province here, we see expats abayless, I wonder why it’s Riyadh only!!

    There is no harm in wearing long jackets!

  74. Due to the vagaries of the comments procedure my “lighter” comments were made before Mohammed’s and Abu Omar’s appeared. So please don’t think I was being frivolous in light of the seriousness of their comments.

    Some thoughts, in light of those:

    Since the laws about the abaya are not clear for non-Saudi women, it seems to me premature and inappropriate to speak of laws broken.

    Rape statistics are highly unreliable and far from factual, due to overreporting, underreporting, false reporting, myriad conflicting definitions, official obfuscation, deliberate inflation by advocates, conflation of terms, etc. In short, near to useless except to say that 1 is too many, and unfortunately they occur all over the world, motivated by both power and sexual dominance.

    American Catholic in a mixed marriage–an interesting topic though not directly related to this post, and one American Bedu has addressed in different ways in different posts. In brief no one has asked me (RC married to a Muslim) to convert, and while I do believe Mohamed was a great prophet, I haven’t converted out of admiration for Islam’s respect for People of the Book (paradoxical I know), out of respect for my own family and ancestors, and because it is socio-religiously unnecessary. Any children would be raised Muslim with excellent grounding in comparative Abrahamic religions and respect for all (as Islam teaches).

    Back to the post, it seems clear to me that American Bedu spoke about a personal choice within a range of options for her in Riyadh.

  75. Umm Latifa and Saudi in US–your exchange is respectful and enlightening for others, although I agree more with Saudi in US. “Hijab” after all refers broadly to modesty and is defined differently in different places and times throughout Islamic history and the Islamic world.

  76. Mohammed, and Abu Omar; There is NO law requiring foreign women to wear the abaya. The religious police enforce it non the less, against the law. So Bedu didn’t do anything wrong. And what security are you talking about? why do I hear saudi women reporting again and again how they are constantely harrassed ina manner totally inconcievable in ”the west” even when they are fully veiled? Or one women in Bahrein reported on this blog how she was being harassed by saudies when veild and 8 months pregnant???

    Abu Omar I don’t know where you get your statistics from, but a percentage of those rapes in ”the west” are done by muslim men who gang rape western women because they consider every western woman as meat.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-412697/Outrage-Muslim-cleric-likens-women-uncovered-meat.html
    Besides, in many muslim countries women can’t even claim rape becasue they can’t prove it, and of course they stand the chance to get executed for it, either by government or their own family. So you can bet your bottom dollar the majority of rapes aren’t reported anyway.
    And don’t let me get started of raping small school-girls after they have been sold to lecherous old pedophiles in ”marriage”!!!
    Where the ”Liberty” comes in is that in the ”west” women can get legal aid, and the perpetrators can get severe sentences, and the women can get help, instead of getting killed for blemishing the ”family honour”

  77. Chiara, your comments are very interesting. I would like to add a bit… Hijab means literately a cover, and is closely related to haya, modesty (behavioral code). So… we may wear abaya and have no haya… and we may have haya but not wear abaya… the point is accordingly to Islam hijab equals both: outer garment that covers all women’s awrah (call it jilbaab or abaya) and haya. This is as regards rules of Islam.

  78. Wow, so I just read all 70 something comments and most people said what I was going to say. Props to you for being brave enough to do this! As long as your careful, then I say enjoy wearing normal clothes in public.

    I have an opinion about this but I would rather not engage in an argument. I’d rather just say that I understand that some people may find it disrespectful to a culture, but if the people of that culture aren’t offended, then it’s obviously not a problem. I’m sure many people have the same views as Americanbedu does about the abaya but can’t or won’t take it off because they don’t want to take a chance.

  79. To Aafke: I stated it is a rule that is binding here in our Saudi society (there is a difference between the law and a rule, in my opinon). As a a Saudi I like this rule and respect it, and it does not matter for me if it is enforced by religious police or by anyone else. Please take into account that at the airport in Saudi Arabia, when women come here, they are “forced” to put an abaya on. So if it was not a law nor a rule, the women would walk like in the streets of Europe or America.

  80. I think people are missing the point here.

    The arguement here is not whether the abaya is Islamically required, or whether modest dressing is a substitute to the black cloak. The point is that when you are a guest in a country, you should be respectful and follow the host’s rules.

    You don’t visit someone’s home and start rearranging their furniture and painting their walls, do you now? It’s the same concept here. Whether you like a particular custom or not, whilst living in a place with laws and customs, you can’t just decide to do things your way just because you don’t approve of the local laws!

  81. A mini vacation huh Bedu?! Hope you enjoyed the moment for all it was worth to you in particular.

    When it comes to wearing abaya and niqab, I can only speak of the case of Yemen…and there I wear it because people are natural starers- they will stare at a black painted wall- no problem!

    I am infamous in my family for the words “y tu que miras” I shouted at a Yemeni man who must have sprained his neck while staring at me wearing not only abaya and niqab but black gloves to boot (sun is merciless, and I don’t appreciate sun spots on my skin)!

    But in the rest of the ME; a Turkish coat and hijab is as far as I feel I need to go.

    I don’t think Bedu’s mini vacation from the abaya made an impact of any kind- YouTube would have had a field day by now… All it accomplished is a much needed sigh of relief on her part. That’s it…

    Her jeans, her coat, her white skin; her hair were not banners that screamed “up in arms and discard your yards of fabric” ! Nope! It was just Bedu out and about with a friend she hadn’t spoken to on a girly moment- Bas!

  82. Veiling was never an Islamic custom, but the custom of Jewish noble women who considered themselves too good to be seen by the ”common” people. Lowerclass women and slaves were not allowed to cover. This custom was continued as women embraced Islam.
    The fairly recent enforced custom of wearing only long cumbersome black abayas has nothing to do with the Islamic faith.
    I don’t see why a custom only a few decades old can’t be set aside by those who don’t like it.
    Anyway, Blogging-sister Achelois has written an excellent post about it all, mine is forthcoming, but will take a few days more.
    Read Achelois:
    http://achelois.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/uniforming-the-muslim-women/

  83. Umm Latifa–thank you for your clarification, although I think we are basically saying the same thing, whether “hijab” is taken in the literal sense of “cover” or the broader metaphorical sense of “modesty” or “hayah”. Although modesty and covering are clearly Islamic, how much to cover, where, when, and with what is a subject of longstanding debate amongst diverse Islamic scholars, and differs from one ethnic group of the ummah to another, as well as changing over time.

    Adnan–I agree with respecting the laws and customs of the country you are a guest in, but based on the comments of Saudis, those laws and customs are not rigidly fixed nor practiced, and differ for Saudis and non-Saudis, so being respectful of them takes different forms in different contexts.

    Inal– a much needed and comical reframing! And yes, occasionally, when needed and Arabic words fail, a firm statement in another language will do (mine was “mon mari est la bas”–with much pointing to my wedding band and into the distance; and now I know to “hadak raj li” :-) )

  84. Chiara. I appreciate you understanding the point I have been trying to make. Just to clarify things further, when 99% of the population follows a certain custom – whether forcefully or otherwise – I think it’s fair to say that they those practices are ‘rigidly followed’, and the opinion of less than a dozen people can’t be taken for one represented by the masses. Moreso, the difference in following of this custom for Saudis and non-saudis is usually minimal – that of the head scarf in most cases. Otherwise, both sets of folks still don essentially the same garb.

    Anyways, my point remains the same; if you live in a place that has customs and rules that is followed by almost everyone, please be respectful and follow them as well, if you have chosen to live there.

  85. Adnan–thank you for your further clarification. As I have not yet had the pleasure of being a guest in Saudi I cannot comment further on life in Saudi except that Saudis I have talked to as well as those here confirm there are regional differences in practice, and Saudis are held to a higher standard. We do agree on respect, though, and as I have stated when a guest in Iran I coverered appropriately–much to the pleasure of my Arab Muslim mother-in-law, who advanced my covering as the appropriate thing to do in different Muslim countries in a discussion among the women of the family. :-)

  86. @Adnan – That’s a weak argument. Just because your cultural norms dictate for Saudi woman that a abaya is “mandatory” does not mean that everyone else (non Saudi) has to adhere to it. Since Saudi Arabia accepts “outsiders” into the country they should be aware and tolerant of other people’s cultural norms. I usually would say “when in Rome… ” but there are some things that I would draw the line at. I.E. if a place’s cultural norm/rule was to eat human children and to not do so would offend the natives I’d gracefully have to decline. Just because something is a cultural norm does not make it right for everyone. I, personally, am happy to see that things have changed in Saudi Arabia and acceptance of cultures not there own is becoming more and more prevalent. I’ve always wanted to travel to the Kingdom and experience what life is like there. When I was aiming to become a diplomat that was one of the countries I’d hope to be posted in. I’d still like to travel there as a tourist (and visit Carol :p) but being forced to conform would probably grate on my tender American feelings of freedom. It seems people forget when they talk about freedoms in the West is that it’s freedom to CHOOSE. I have no problems if someone CHOOSES to cover and may in fact find the experience enlightening but being forced is something I take a stand to.

    I’m not surprised no one wanted to touch on religious people who want to control what other people do to justify their own beliefs. The mentality just boggles me. Why? If you believe X then you do Y. If you don’t believe X then don’t do Y. People are adults and can choose for themselves what they wish to follow and believe in. What happen to the “no compulsion” in Islam? Thailand is a heavily Buddhist country but you don’t see the King ( a highly revered monarch) demanding that Thais or foreigners adhere to Buddhist tenets while in Thailand. Malaysia or Indonesia which have very high Muslim populations done make other adhere to Islam.

    In this day and age of internet, television, and a shrinking globe respect goes both ways. You want me to respect your culture and rights then you need to respect mine. Crying foul because you are insulted by what others do that don’t adhere to your faith is annoying and what gives Muslim another bad reputation in the West.

  87. I don’t have a problem with a country stating clearly and enforcing laws, especially when making efforts to clearly tell foreigners about requirements before they come, so they have a choice about whether to travel to that country or not. In fact anyone travelling in a country is subject to its laws whether they are aware of it or not. That is the reason Canada distributes pamphlets at airports to Canadians travelling outside the country to remind them they will be under the other country’s jurisdiction and the Canadian government cannot override that. Still there does seem that just about everywhere there is a range of acceptable social behaviours including dress.

  88. Aafke- “Mohammed, and Abu Omar; There is NO law requiring foreign women to wear the abaya. ”

    No law says a woman can’t drive either should we all rush out and get behind the wheel??

    Bedu- I don’t really go out at night so I don’t hit that kind of cold. For me a sweater will do just find and layers if necessary. I’ve never worn a jacket the entire 8+ years I’ve been here.

  89. wow….a few hours sleep and so many more comments! It is enjoyable reading them – all the diverse views. I guess I’ve been brave in speaking out that I choose at times to go out without the abaya and from the comments, I see I’m not alone in choosing to do so and that some Saudi women have chosen this as well. For me it does indicate that there is more tolerance for some changing customs and practices.

    No, wearing the abaya is not a law. It is a strong suggestion. Some employers who hold the iqamas of foreigners will make it a rule of employment that female employees must wear an abaya when out.

    Regarding women driving, I am under the impression that it is a law women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia and not “a rule.”

  90. Ive always wondered about this thinking that women are the first and the last and the middle recipients of clothing (religious) laws that either force or encourage them to cover in order to maintain the piety and decorum of the society as a whole.

    Oh what a burden we bear…and the fingers point and the name calling starts when the burden is lightly shrugged off…even for a moment.

    As soon as they start enforcing all other Islamic laws in Saudi…and dont let people slide who have committed sins against others…such as not paying salaries to foreign workers…abuse of domestic workers….abuse of wives and daughters etc…and so many things to numerous to mention…then come back and say we are insulting this “Islamic” country by not following the religous mandates etc…follow them first …be our vanguards when it comes to religious practices etc…then maybe people will follow you willingly and without complaint.

    Hypocrisy in the Islamic/Arab/Muslim world is why people feel a certain hesitation and animosity towards it when discussing issues like this…or being forced to follow them when among them…

  91. OnigiriFB, I think your arguement holds no grounds. You see, it really is a matter of simply respecting your surroundings. If someone likes to totter around butt naked in their homes, do you suppose they can walk into a church in their birthday suit in the name of personal freedom? People confuse freedom to be the license to behave like whatever they want, wherever they want. With that fundamentally incorrect understanding of the word, I can walk upto anyone and ‘choose’ to rob their car, just because I am exercising my freedom of liking their car and wanting it! It may sound absurd, but this is exactly what people are making out the term ‘freedom’ to be!

    I keep saying, I am not indulging into the concept of abaya and its relation to the actually rulings in Islam, rather the reality that it is a cultural and social norm that is to be adhered by all those who reside here. And it’s not like the idea is sprung upon to foreigners after they arrive. I’d be very surprised if someone told me they weren’t foretold of the customs before they decided to move here. To answer your question, if I knew a particular country would force me to eat human flesh, I simply would not visit! I highly doubt Saudi Arabia, or any other country as a matter of fact, will come and force you to take up a job here or make you visit its shores at gunpoint. You have the ‘freedom’ to choose to not to come here. But, if you do, you better keep your stinking view of ‘freedom’, which for you is a license to get away for murder in the name of doing whatever your heart desires without regard or respect to the locals, to yourself!

  92. ” But, if you do, you better keep your stinking view of ‘freedom’, which for you is a license to get away for murder in the name of doing whatever your heart desires without regard or respect to the locals, to yourself!…”

    how did the discussion about having the freedom to wear or not wear the abaya turn into one of “the freedom to committ murder”? How in the heck did you get from freedom to wear or not wear a certain cloth…to freedom to take a life?

    Just goes to show how touchy and all consuming is the subject of womens “freedoms” in the world…going without an abaya is akin to murdering freely and openly without remorse.

  93. coolred38, for twisting meanings and taking things out of context, you certainly take the cake.

    I never implied the seriousness of the freedom to wear what you want, where you want was akin to that of murder. Rather, my implication was the usage and thereby extension of the term ‘freedom’, and how under some people’s understanding of freedom, you would get away with something even more grave.

    You had no meat in your arguement against that of mine asking for appropriate respect for the surroundings of a society you are visiting as a guest, so you went around twisting and turning the meaning of my statements.

    I keep insisting that my take on this matter is not about the garb itself, but the utter lack of respect that people tend to have for the people and environment they intend to visit, by stamping their understanding of freedom on the host society with such arrogance and disregard for others that it makes me sick!

  94. OnigiriFB, Excellent comment.

    Nzinga, yes, good idea. All Saudi women should get behind the wheel and drive. As Arab woman have always done: if they needed to go somewhere, they would take a horse or a camel and ”go” there. And this the bedouin women still do in the desert.
    As live, also in KSA, nowadays actually requires you to do a lot of travel, travel (no streetmarket in the next street, children to and from school, hospital visits, etc.) Yes, of course women should be able to get around by car and do their proper stuff.

    Adnan, your reasoning is só deranged that I don’t think a ”discussion” with you is possible. Not for intelligent people. Do walk around and work in an Abaya and niqab and gloves for a month in summer and see if you consider it ”not constricting”. But I don’t think you’d have the guts, or strength, to do that.

  95. American Bedu, Very brave thing to do!
    You were modestly dressed so I don’t see what the hullaballoo is all about. Those men who claim to be só affronted should stay indoors. There they can be sure not to be upset by females in proper modest dress, and they will not be in danger of drinking beer in consequense.

    I take it you haven’t murdered anybody after leaving your abaya at home? if you haven’t, you are still on the up and up :)

  96. Aafke,

    Ofcourse, anyone with such extremely low Intelligent Quotient will fail to understand after repeated statements, that I am not neccessarily for pro-abaya myself. Infact I completely agree that black cloacks are restricting for anyone to wear, and being born and having lived in KSA for 16 years, I know how hot it can get here. Look back, read carefully, and re-read if you need to; there is no where in my posts did I advocate for the concept of abayas. And if you’re quoting me when you wrote “not constriciting”, then I invite you to point out which post of mine you’re referring to.

    My point all along has been one against the idea of a foreign woman arriving in Saudi as a guest, and walking out in public sans abaya in sheer arrogance of doing what she pleases, simply because she feels she has the right to exercise the freedom that she has had in her home country. I’m sorry, but doesn’t work that way. You can’t goto someone else’s home and start doing things the way *you* want to, just because you *think* you have the freedom to do so! *That* my deranged friend is utterly disrespectful, whichever way you want to look at it!

    Ofcourse, you fail to comprehend the point I’ve been trying to consistently make, so you’re right.. there really isn’t hope for me to attempt to get my ideas across to a brick wall.

  97. Maybe I’m using vocabulary beyond the understanding of a few people here. Therefore, allow me to simplify the point I’ve been trying to make here.

    When you go into a foreign society, kindly respect their social and cultural norms, observe the law, and respect their customs by adhering to atleast the ones that are in view of the public. If you have troubles doing any of the above, you are welcome to leave.

    I hope this simplification of the idea that I, along with several others on the comment page have been trying to make, will get through to you.

  98. ‘My point all along has been one against the idea of a foreign woman arriving in Saudi as a guest, and walking out in public sans abaya in sheer arrogance of doing what she pleases, simply because she feels she has the right to exercise the freedom that she has had in her home country. I’m sorry, but doesn’t work that way. You can’t goto someone else’s home and start doing things the way *you* want to, just because you *think* you have the freedom to do so! *That* my deranged friend is utterly disrespectful, whichever way you want to look at it!’

    Then I would suppose that you would agree that there should be no Abayas or Niqabs in the U.S.? It is a very insulting thing to the women of this country that struggled for years to finally get laws to protect them and allow them the liberty to not be blamed for men’s inability to control themselves. Also I certainly DO NOT want them influencing my daughters so that they feel self conscious rather than confident and sure of themselves.

    Maybe if the women of KSA were considered human enough to be given the vote someone could ask them what they want.

    As I understand it, the abaya is a fairly new custom and customs evolve over time so what is the big deal? The more people that do it, the more comfortable others will get with it. No one was harmed when Carol went without it, cars didn’t crash, no one fainted and I’m pretty sure that the women of Saudi didn’t change their clothing the next day. So what is the big deal?

    Just because you don’t understand what ‘Freedom’ means doesn’t mean that others do not. Your freedom stops where others’ starts so NO, you do not have the freedom to kill or steal from others as they takes away their freedoms. With freedom comes responsibility. Also, there are LAWS against those things like murder and theft, not a ‘custom’ against it. Big difference.

    ‘Ofcourse, anyone with such extremely low Intelligent Quotient will’ What? resort to name calling and feet stamping when people don’t agree with you? Grow up!

    Aafke and OnigiriFB, y’all have said everything I wanted to say.

  99. Wow. Go to sleep and come back to lots of response.

    “When you go into a foreign society, kindly respect their social and cultural norms, observe the law, and respect their customs by adhering to at least the ones that are in view of the public. If you have troubles doing any of the above, you are welcome to leave.”

    That is just utter crap. Alas this one show some modicum of intelligence so I’ll bother to respond. Again respect is a two way street. Ever wonder why Saudi Arabia has a harder time recruiting “foreigners” and have to offer a LOT for a Westerner to move there? Or how “western” only compounds exist because if not SA’s ability to lure intelligent well-educated Western people would be much much harder.

    It’s the narrow minded ignorance that you’ve shown here that does not help your country’s image around the world. You sound just like the ignorant red-necked conservatives in the US that scream about how an immigrant needs to learn English and become American in a thinly disguised attempt to conceal their racism. A piece of cloth wouldn’t discourage me from moving to a place if there are other factors I liked. But just because I accept parts of your culture does not mean I need to accept all of it. Nor does it mean I have have to adhere to it if it goes against my own moral view. And btw there is a VAST difference between an abaya and walking around butt naked. Argumentum ad absurdum much? Just because you can’t hack it in a multi-cultural society doesn’t condemn the others who are more tolerant in your country. One can only hope that there are far more of “them” than there are of you.

    Oh, and just to put it more simply in case you don’t use words that are bigger that two syllables: Want respect? Give respect. It’s earned not a right.

  100. Bedu- there is no law that says women can not drive. In fact the new driving laws that were laid down in black and white recently even opened the door more for the possibilty of preparing for women to drive. But no there has never been a law that says a woman can not drive.

    No laws that prohibit opening a movie theatre either.. but don’t get your popcorn all buttered just yet.

    There is currently no law that prhobitis women from working in a mixed work place either, old regulations done away with. But don’t go getting your CVs to manage your favorite clothing store at the local mixed mall in the hopes of a discount as you won’t be entertained for hiring.

    So many laws don’t exist, yet law isn’t all that goes into what governs saudi. I think many outside of this country don’t get that.

    Aafke- you really think women should get up and drive? We aren’t in camel times anymore we are in big SUVs with crazy drivers and some angry males who will severely harm women who may drive. We are also at a time when our families risk harassment, loss of jobs, and a loss of the freedom (read jail and all its loveliness).

    While I would love to live in dream land with marshmallow fluff and all.. I kind of this thing called reality bringing me down. :)

  101. Carol, I read your post and then I read it again. I don’t know you much but you’re your writing I honestly did not feel like you were out there to hurt the cultural sensitivities of people. You mention clearly that you were without an abaya and to avoid delays you went out in a jacket. I assume you were wearing a headscarf? Anyway, an abaya is just like a long jacket and yours was long you say. Of course, in the end you felt free and it was good but you didn’t set out to feel free and good about it.

    What I am happy about reading is that no one is calling abaya a religious requirement. As long as we all agree that it is a cultural practice then we are all agreeing. That is glass half full!

    It would have been terrible if we were all arguing with each other that Carol went out to annoy God by not wearing an abaya :D

    There are societies that dictate cultural clothes for women. It is a sad fact. I feel the same way about Iran. But since Arabia (and I refuse to call is Saudi Arabia) is home to the seat of Islam, I personally feel Arabians should be very careful about what they force upon people. Today there are many areas in which Muslims are called names in general because Arabians are so extreme in their practices. For example, Muslims are called misogynist because ‘Saudis’ don’t allow women to drive. Muslims are called perverts because ‘Saudis’ have legalized misyar marriage. Muslims are called pedophiles because ‘Saudi’ court has refused to grant divorce to an 8 year old. Muslims are called patriarchal and backward because ‘Saudis’ force women to wear abaya. Muslims are believed to be extremists because ‘Saudi’ muttawa force people to be religious. But this is not what happens in every Muslim society.

    I don’t think we can equate West with Arabia. Sadly freedom is restricted in Arabia and the kind of freedom we imagine in the West is anyway very different from the freedoms allowed in the East. Yes, US has given women to wear abaya and even niqaab. No one likes it but no one can say that aloud and get away with it if the woman decides to take legal action against the accused. That is the freedom decided upon and granted by the US. It is not so in Arabia. So in Arabia if a woman wants to be protected it is in her best interest to do what she is told. Now that sounds awful but that is what the society is like; women are infantilized.

    In all honesty I don’t like a woman in black abaya or niqaab when I see one in the West. They stick out like a sore thumb and that is exactly what is warned in Islam – to draw attention. The abaya is one reason I don’t want to live in Arabia. I find it insulting to be told to give up the freedom I am used to so in a way I understand when people say it is a woman’s choice who is not Arabian to choose whether she wants to live in Arabia and follow the laws or not live there. However, it is not always so simple as in your case where you are married to an Arabian and have to live in Arabia.

    So what I am saying is no one can understand anyone’s life and lifestyle and thoughts and wishes. To each his/her own. When God has said “there is no compulsion in religion” then who are we to make culture compulsory?

    You are a gentle soul, Carol. Don’t let anyone worry you over an abaya. Next time you can try wearing a black shirt, black pants and a long black jacket!

  102. Lynn: “Then I would suppose that you would agree that there should be no Abayas or Niqabs in the U.S.?”

    If as a ‘citizen’ of the U.S., you and your society colectively decide to do that, it is completely your prerogative to do so. As a Canadian citizen, you see, *I* have no right to march in and dictate what I *think* should be done in *your* homeland, and the laws you decide to make. Just as Saudi citizens, or any other citizens in their homeland, do no appreciate foregin people trying to dictate the way they are supposed to live and carry out their customs. It seems I’ve been flogging a dead horse when I keep saying that I am not neccessarily for the abaya, rather I insist that whatever change needs to happen, must come from the locals, and the foreigners need to tuck away their arrogance that they bring forth when they insist on subjecting their ideas, customs and understanding of freedom on other people’s lands. Is this concept really that difficult to comprehend?

    OnigiriFB: “Ever wonder why Saudi Arabia has a harder time recruiting “foreigners” and have to offer a LOT for a Westerner to move there?”

    The lack of bars and the club scene is the biggest deterant. But tax free money is a big enough reason that there over 6 million expats working here. What exactly is your point and how does it relate to my point that foreginers have no business in meddling with the affairs of the country that they are there as a guest in. Again, is it a hard concept to grasp? Really?

    Respect is a two-street; if I invite you to my house, I’m already paying you respect, and furthermore by getting you food and drink. But the moment you start re-arranging my furniture, replacing my choice of utensils with onces that please you, and trotting around with your shoes on my persian rug, when I had specifically requested you to leave them at the door, then my friend, we have a got a problem!

    The U.S. and Saudi are different countries, it’s your very own arrogance that you keep wanting to make the Saudi like the U.S. i respect the fact that the U.S. allows the freedom of religion and practicies, but the fact is that Saudi doesn’t. I don’t demand that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms be implemented in Saudi. I have no right to do so. I am not a Saudi. And unless you are one, you can either follow their rules, or pack your bag and go.

  103. I don’t know if it escaped attention, but do I recall Muna Abu Sulayman also saying she doesn’t “veil” … ?

  104. I have NEVER said I wanted Saudi Arabia to be like the US. I do have feel that unless they want to isolate themselves and take the country backwards then Saudi society needs to accept that other people do not conform to their narrow views of how a woman should dress. You fail again to realize that I am NOT advocating that others go about sans abaya if they DO NOT WANT TO. So your example of rearranging your house doesn’t fly here. Respect and acceptance of other’s cultural norms is great but also needs to come from both parties not just one. In your house I wouldn’t wander around butt naked but neither would I show up in full niqab and abaya just to appease your moral views of what is right and wrong. I would however dress conservatively but it will be in a manner of how I deem to be conservative not your narrow view. If you don’t like it don’t invite me, simple as that.

    Again what are you afraid of? That Carol has started a revolution and the precious abaya will be thrown off by all Saudi woman thus ruining the country and Islam forever? I highly doubt it. There will always be those who choose to veil. Sounds like you are more afraid that woman will see that right next to them a woman can choose to do what they want and not face any consequences. So others will follow and society as known in SA will collapse in moral decay? Give me a break. IF that’s all the makes a Islamic society function and work something is very wrong with that society. Another reason why religious people who want to control what others do and believe anger me. If your faith is so shaky that what someone else does or does not do is necessary to justify your beliefs then that’s your problem not others.

  105. ‘But the moment you start re-arranging my furniture, replacing my choice of utensils with onces that please you’

    So you wouldn’t allow me to use a fork if I am more comfortable using one? Must I be forced to eat with bread and my hands even though I am very uncomfortable with that? That is NOT hospitality. I am sure that Carol was not asking anyone else that is comfortable wearing abaya to take it off. She just happened to not have it handy and went without rather than put herself out. Considering that the world kept spinning and nothing else detrimental happened to KSA, If I were her I’d never put one on again (unless of course it had a Hello Kitty patch on it)

  106. Each woman in Saudi regardless of her nationality or faith has to do what is right for her. However if a woman chooses to go without an abaya and although the abaya is a cultural mandate and not law, then she should be aware there could be consequences by going without.

    The longer I am here in Saudi and given I’m here due to marriage I’m not sure if that still makes me in the guest category or not…. in fact digressing a little, it is interesting to see in various circumstances whether I’m viewed as Saudi or American due to being married to a Saudi…anyway back to my track here, the longer I am here in Saudi the more I am aware that there simply is not black and white on so many issues but rather shades of gray. The abaya happens to be one of them.

  107. Lynn: “So you wouldn’t allow me to use a fork if I am more comfortable using one? ”

    Really? That’s what you came up after all I had written? I was referring to the analogy where if I have red spoons and forks and flowery plates, you would come to my place and replace them with blue ones and striped plates because you prefer that. But, ofcourse you knew that. It’s easier to twist the meaning of a phrase than to refute it with a diligent and intelligent arguement.

    I never said what Carol did as a one time thing was totally going to cause KSA to come to a halt. I was merely agigtated by several foreign people wanting to enforce their ideas of freedom in a country they don’t even reside in, let alone are a citizen of! That is *rude*! Look at it whichever way you want.

    I am not neccessarily for the abaya and I think women should drive! However, even though I was born here, I have no right to stick my ideas up their faces, let alone some folks here who have nothing to do with the country! If you are not a citizen of KSA, you are merely a temporary guest, you have no right to force your ideas down the throats of the locals. They are intelligent enough to make their own choices, when they are comfortable. If you aren’t ok with that, there are better places in the world suited for your lifestyle. Be respectful and keep your ideas of concepts of morals and values in your home, or your homeland, with all due respect.

  108. I would like to say a few things….I’m an american living in Saudi as well and I am muslim. I don’t necessarily feel that an Abaya is THE required garment in Islam, modest dress is, however I would like to point out that Saudi is the birthplace of Islam, the land that holds the two out of three of the holiest sites in Islam, the Kaaba and the prophets mosque in Madinah, for these reasons I understand the rule that women must cover, out of respect to these things.

    I don’t feel that anyone should be forced to cover in any other country but I draw the line here in Saudi Arabia. This is a blessed country that was inhabitited by the best of humanity. Where the angel Jibrael came to him and revealed the Quran. Our prophets Abraham and Ishmael were also here and built the Kaaba with their hands. This land holds the body of our beloved Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him for goodness sake.

    This is not any other arab country or any country for that matter it’s Saudi Arabia and the rules should be respected! I really don’t see how anyone can think its that big of a deal, I wear the abaya and scarf year round and sure it gets hot here but wearing the abaya doesn’t make you that much hotter when it comes to the tempratures we reach here.It’s not like we are working outside generally its from house to car to work/shopping/friends house etc.

    I don’t wear abaya outside of Saudi I generally wear jeans and a longish top and scarf. I consider myself a very moderate muslim, but this is one topic that I don’t believe anyone should take lightly.

  109. Just to add, I agree that I feel Carol never intended to offend anyone or any culture, and I respect her for that. Not wearing an abaya for a foreginer is walking on a thin line subject to possibly tough measures.

    What I do have a problem with is non citizens poking their noses in the matters of someone else’s land and culture. I think that’s a fair reason for anyone to be upset.

  110. Coolred and Lynn: I agree with your statements.

    Mohammed and Adnan: you’re basically taking the when in Rome…point of view…and I’m not arguing against it because in Saudi…the Abaya in my opinion is not my fight; and I’ve already stated my opinion on how I feel about it. BTW: When I came into Dammam Airport…I didn’t have an Abaya, and no one said one word to me.

    However…I would like to know if you feel the same about Muslims going to Western countries and wanting the law to accommodate Islamic rules/law? For example, in the west we have so-called “freedom of speech”, however Muslims in the Netherlands are trying to make it a crime to say anything negative about Islam. Based on your argument…these Muslims should accept the “law of the land”; meaning anyone should be able to say whatever they want about any religion. In Britain, some Muslim clerics actually want Muslims to have to adhere to Sharia law, versus British law (i.e. you can beat or even kill your sister for dishonoring the family). In France, a Muslim woman on trial refused to remove her veil in court (which is against the law) of the land. So…from your position, these people should accept the laws of that land or go back to where they came from?

  111. Susan- -Thanks for pointing out the range in Saudi covering.
    “Veiling” is a confusing term in English, since it usually refers to a face covering rather than the equally correct meaning of a head scarf. Covering the face or wearing a niqab is not required in Saudi, and in the West is infinitely more fraught than veiling by wearing a headscarf (sometimes called a hijab, athough the word has broader meanings) which is also fraught.
    Muna, by her pictures, wears no face veil, but a hadscarf, and rather loosely.

    Today’s “National Post”– a Canadian strongly pro-Israel, right wing paper originally created by Conrad Black (that’s Lord Black of Cross Harbour to the Brits) now owned by the Izzy Aspers family–contained a series of opinion articles on the niqab/veil in its Canadian “multiculturalism meets the law” version. The initial spark was a Judge ruling that a woman must testify in court without her niqab, or face veil, during the trial of the man who (allegedly) sexually assaulted her. One of the commentors is a Muslim leader “Tarek Fatah” who is an anti-Islamist. The following links are to the story, then the editorial opinion, then Tarek Fatah’s opinion.

    http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=1245546

    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/02/04/editorial-take-off-the-veil.aspx

    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/02/04/tarek-fatah-veil-of-ignorance.aspx

    Just another view on the what to wear where debate.

  112. Oh, and to add one more thing:
    ——————
    Basic Laws of Saudi Arabia:
    Rights and Duties

    Article 41:

    Foreign residents in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall abide by its laws and shall observe the values of Saudi society and respect its traditions and feelings.
    ——————

    Therefore, if wearing an abaya is merely a tradition, and the feeling towards it is strong, then by not conforming to those values, you are showing disrespect and therebye breaking Article 41 of the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia, are you not?

    Sources:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia#Law
    http://www.saudinf.com/main/c541f.htm

  113. BCIS: “from your position, these people should accept the laws of that land or go back to where they came from?”

    Yup, absolutely. As Muslims we are required to follow the law of the land we reside in. If it interferes with our faith, and we are unable to do anything about it, then we are free to emigrate elsewhere.

  114. American Bedu–thanks for picking up on the theme of whether one is a guest or a member of society and how that might impact decisions in a gray area like the range of appropriate covering, while emphasizing the potential consequences of challenging cultural orthodoxies. As a “guest” one might be a tourist, or a short term contract worker, with different sets of expectations, while a resident could be a longterm resident worker, an ‘”all but the passport Saudi”, or the “spouse of” residing permanently, where expectations and feelings of the right to an opinion, and cultural expression would be different.

    Habeeba–Saudi’s religious exceptionality is dealt with in other ways, like restrictions on non-Muslims entering Mecca and Medina, and a tight control of the Hajj. Covering vs the abaya as a specific type of Islamic covering is a relatively recent issue in the long history you describe.

  115. Lunn, excellent! haven’t read in the Arab news yet that half of Riyad women have now stopped wearing the abaya…

    Nzinga, You have a point about laws, and I suppose you can call them ”unwritten laws”. But I still don’t see why that would make Bedu disrespectful.
    About cars, uhm, yes, the moronic suicidal driving is an impediment. However, that can be remedied by putting up some traffic rules, and enforcing them. Or… banning men from driving. Women are much better drivers anyway. :mrgreen:

  116. But as it was mentioned many times…wearing the abaya is not a LAW but merely a cultural practice…so why should we as either natives or visitors feel compelled to follow a cultural practice when not following it really harms no one? Women in Saudi could just as well dress modestly in anything other than an black abaya and still fullfill the dress code laid out in the Quran…that of modesty. The fact that the Saudi custom of wearing an all encompassing black shroud has slowly become the “norm” does not mean it should be considered the norm for every woman in Saudi. All Saudi men do not wear the cultural thobe…so why must all Saudi women wear the cultural abaya…and why should non Saudi women even be expected too when its not their cultural practice…and most especially if they are not Muslim?

    Muslims in every country on this planet just about have cried long and loud about their religious rights being oppressed…they sue courts and stand in front of media sharks lamenting that the world hates Islam and Muslims are being attacked from every corner….and they have the right to do that….and many times they win their court cases as well and are compensated for their “rights” having been trod upon…and yet when it comes to Saudi…the “Holiest of Holy” places so to speak…rights are an unheard of thing…Muslims and non Muslims alike can only gnash t heir teeth in frustration and pray feverently to God/Allah with heads bowed or hands clasped that their rights will some day be acknowledged…and yet…while rights are oppressed….rights that the Prophet himself encouraged the Muslims to grant others at the cost of their own loss…then culture is king…and Islam is powerless…culture holds sway and Islam is lost…culture is first and Islam somewhere down the line…

    That is why we argue about wearing abayas…not to turn Saudi into America…but to possibly someday turn it into a true Islamic country…something maybe close to what it was like back in the day when Greatness walked the land and Muslims actually cared about other Muslims…and non Muslims alike. A place where the word Islam wont sound like a joke….and Muslim wont sound like a dirty word.

  117. Adnan at 8:24–logically, morally and religiously consistent, and well-stated.

  118. Adnan, thank you…now if you’d please pass the word to your fellow brethren…that would be awesome :)

  119. “What I do have a problem with is MUSLIMS poking their noses in the matters of someone else’s land and culture. I think that’s a fair reason for anyone to be upset.”

    Oh wah! A child will often go running to Mama with the words “That person didn’t agree with so they suck and are rude.” Last time I checked foreign guest/immigrants in SA aren’t up in arms demonstrating, terrorizing, and/or the like to have their rules and moralities conformed to. What has been expressed here is opinion not an attempt to subvert the wonderful glorious land of Islam where nothing can go wrong and everything done is Islamically correct *sarcasm* (excuse me while I go throw up). I’m done… anyone else?

  120. Ironically one of the holiest cities, Makkah, will have many women who come to the Haram to perform hajj or umrah be without an abaya; however, they will certainly be conservatively dressed and covered.

  121. Adnan at 8:22–thank you for the references which also deal with the law vs customs/traditions issue. I guess the “debate” then is more about who is actually wearing what in different parts of Saudi, as an arbiter of the “customs/traditions”.

  122. American Bedu–an excellent point and one used in argument against the niqab as well, since is it forbidden during hajj. Also, more evidence of regional differences independent of religion or religiousity.

  123. All it takes is once to have acid thrown on you. If your legs are not exposed, they would go for your face. Do be careful. Also, what did your Saudi husband have to say about this? Does he think it is safe? I would go by whatever he thinks.

    Expat 21
    “Expat Abroad”
    expat21.wordpress.com

  124. Expat 21–acid in Saudi? I’ve only heard of that in South Asia and Afghanistan, and of Muttawa “corrections” in Saudi.

  125. I’ve yet to see any Saudis even muttawas randomly going around carrying acid! Let’s not get too extreme. There’s enough of a bad rap about practices in the Kingdom and carrying around acid is NOT one of them!

    And expat 21 if you choose to read the rest of the comments, you’ll see that your question had been asked and answered.

  126. Carol, I don’t hear of any Saudis going to the US and wanting the government to legalize polygamy and out flaunting it in public, nor do they go and chop the hands of the suburbian pick pocket. They respect the laws of the land and abide by it in most cases, until they go back to Saudi.

    Similarly, you are expected to tuck your meaning of freedom within your home and compound that you may have been provided. The debate is not whether the abya is an Islamic dress, I think it we are all on the same page when we say that abaya is atleast a cultural dress, and we are asking the foreigners to respect that culture, as I have now even proven that such respect and observing of Saudi traditions is required by law, article 41 of the Saudi Basic Laws.

    Exercise your freedoms in your home and in your homeland please.

  127. Adnan–although I have agreed with some of your comments I think you have misunderstood American Bedu’s intent, which as I understand it, is to observe the customs and laws of Saudi within the practices (plural) in Riyadh, including occasionally not wearing the abaya, but rather appropriate Islamic cover, there.

  128. [...] spirited account of her anarchistic spree around Riyad wearing a long coat instead of an abaya!!!!! ”I dared to go out without an abaya” And Achelois has beat me to it by posting her views on Uniforming the Muslim [...]

  129. Intelligent, thinking women like you are kryptonite to close minded intolerant half men- women like you are the reason they blow up girls schools in Afghanistan. Fearful, uneducated, childlike women are easily controlled and don’t question orders- keep questioning, asking, provoking…anything that gets these ladies here empowered enough to think for themselves is a good thing. Tread lightly Bedu- but let you brain remain the big stick! Bravo.

  130. I want to see that punk Hello Kitty abaya

  131. A – I don’t know if Muslims are called perverts because Saudi’s have misyar … on the contrary, men have been working that angle for a very, very, very long time. :)

  132. I’m sorry, my last post @ 11:28 PM was directed at OnigiriFB not Carol. My apologies for the typo.

  133. coolred38: “But as it was mentioned many times…wearing the abaya is not a LAW but merely a cultural practice”

    Coolred, I invite you to read my post at 8:22 regarding the techincality of the abaya being a Saudi tradition, which amongst other Saudi traiditions and customs has to be observed and respected by foreign residents in KSA, according to Saudi Basic Law, Article #41.

    That ends that debate right there.

  134. Adnan at 2:01–thank you for clarifying.

    Susan–the famous “hello kitty abaya designed and beautifully made by Aafke to American Bedu’s specifications can be seen in progress and complete on Aafke’s blog and complete here on American Bedu’s”. Just do a seardh of either.

  135. Fabulous Dahling! That abaya is too cute!

  136. American Bedu,

    I like you, I like your blogs, I like the people who are frequent contributors to it …
    If I were you, I wont be posting a blog about something like this, even if I did it.
    Hope you know about a Saudi Christian who got arrested for writing about his conversion to Christianity…
    I wont be surprised if you get framed for inspiring women to leave Abaya’s at home and be more adventurous….and maybe try to go out..
    I would not like you to get arrested for some BS like that…
    Hope you considered these things before starting the post… :| … and if you have then … great … :)
    Anyway … take care..

  137. Wow what an interesting conversation.

    Adnan,

    Your arguments are really illogical. The center premise of all the posts you had is that wearing Abaya is a requirement either by Law or Tradition. That is not correct. Saudi has allowed foreigners to go without an Abaya for decades. That does not just apply to westerners, but also people from Muslim countries. The only requirement is modest dress. I used to see western ladies not wearing Abaya even when I was a child. So there are neither laws nor social expectations broken here, since Carol is not a Saudi.

    You also act like you are speaking for all Saudi’s. I want it known that you do not speak for me and many other Saudis. Your Racism against others that come to visit our country is shameful.

    You talk about the arrogance of others. To tell you the truth I have read a few of your rants here and the statements you made about people not understanding your so called complex language. Your accusations of people being stupid, etc. That is the height of arrogance. Read your comments and you will see what I mean.

    Dude get over yourself and grow up.

    Peace

  138. Waw, we have effortlessly crossed way over the 100 mark!

    Saudi in US, always só refreshing reading the opinion of an intelligent Saudi male…

    I have finished my own take on Women, dress, undress and religions. Finally.

  139. Interesting debate. For me the real issue, and the more important issue is that no one really knows what the legal nature of this action was. Adnan made a pretty strong case that it was actually illegal.

    What this points out is the fact that there is no codified law in Saudi. So what might be “illegal” in one area of Saudi might not be “illegal” in another area. One Shari’a judge might find one thing as a transgression against Islam, another one will not.

    Saudi will find it very hard to join the civilised world if the average Saudi on the street cannot even tell what is legal and what is not.

    The lack of a codified set of laws that covers the entire country of Saudi will continue to be an unsurmountable obstacle.

    Back to this issue, I think the only reason that Carol didnt have an issue is that she is clearly white and Western.

    Had Carol had dark skin, hair and eyes, I’d bet the situation would have been different.

    As a Westerner we need to keep in mind that as Westerners (usually white) we get a pass that others wouldnt.

  140. Abu Sinan,

    You make a good point regarding laws not being codified. In my opinion the Saudi government applies rules depending on what they can get away with. This introduces a hierarchy for the residents.

    Westerners are the top, because they have strong embassies that protest on behalf of their citizens and Saudi is always worried about perceptions in the western media.

    Saudi’s come next as are citizens and they have relatives, tribes, friends etc. If they get abused unreasonably may create a bad buzz for the government.

    The next group includes Arabs as they can speak the language and are better equipped to work the system than other developing world foreign nationals.

    At the bottom is foreign nationals from non Arabic speaking countries. This explains why so many people get away with abusing their maids.

    In general, the system has built in prejudices, due to lack of laws and educations of judges and law enforcement (including the CPVPV).

    Never the less I think Carol did not act outside acceptable rules.

  141. These past few days have had the Turkish President visiting Saudi Arabia. His visit has been receiving extensive media coverage. I found it interesting that a female member of the delegation has been televised frequently who is uncovered (ie, sans abaya), wearing a skirt below the knees (not to the ankles) and no headcover either.

    Also spotted in Tamimi (Safeway), a woman who appeared of Arab extraction with darker skin, black hair, brown eyes wearing skirt below the knee with boots, sweater and no head covering. So you could say this was a woman who was modestly dressed but unlike me, chose not to have even a lab coat or jacket.

    I think these are the beginnings of indications that things are changing.

  142. Saudi in US : “Saudi has allowed foreigners to go without an Abaya for decades. That does not just apply to westerners, but also people from Muslim countries. The only requirement is modest dress. ”

    That isn’t necessarily true. Expatriate women are told that an abya is required by Saudi custom and if they choose not to wear it than a company may not help them out of any trouble. Authorities in Saudi will detain women for not wearing an abya. There was an uproar over the US authorities telling their female soilders to not wear an abya when out and about amongst the community shortly after they were kicked out all together. If a mutawwa sees a woman with no abya she will be chased down and detained and often times arrested while her husband is left to sort it all out.

    The US embassy also issues warnings to Americans to “blend” in Saudi and not stick out as a foriegner especially women (read this as get your abyas on girls) especially after the attacks throughout saudi. Many companies issue pamphlets on what to do or not to do in Saudi, wearing an abya is one which they are told to do.

    There are some exceptions, not many, and there is a risk.

  143. Nzingha…how come nobody is telling those doing the attacking that its not proper Islamic behavoir to be attacking anyone…whether it be with a stick or even verbally? So women are advised to cover to avoid being attacked…but why isnt anyone stopping those who are attacking…when clearly that is more against Islamic behvoir etc than whether one wears an abaya or not…just wondering.

    Adnan…I was merely pointing out that its not a law…since you already knew that apparently then no need to “read that part”…it was any others that might have been reading it. Calm down bro….its all good.

  144. Nzingha,

    What I said in that statement is a fact. I have seen westerns with no abayas in Saudi even as far back as the 70′s

    Regarding, what companies tells expats, I am not surprised at what you said. If i was running an HR department for any company in Saudi, I would take the most conservative approach to protect the company.

    Regarding the American soldiers issue you brought up, the controversy was about wearing a head cover NOT an Abaya. Which actually proves my point. If the US government complied with that there would not have been an issue.

    Additionally, I gave an example of hundreds of thousands of women coming to Saudi during Hajj and not required to wear an Abaya.

    Regarding being arrested, do you know of 1 actual case where a western woman was arrested while dressed conservatively, but without Abaya? I certainly have not heard of one.

    I know we may not agree, but I think I have presented many examples where abaya is not viewed as a requirement, but you insist it is. We are not going to resolve this difference it seems :)

  145. Saudi in US,

    Thank you for replying. Firstly, I would like to address the racist allegation that you’ve made. Being a Canadian and having lived in several multi-cultural societies and befriended people from various parts of the world; ranging from the little in island of Fiji, Singapore to India, Turkey, Saudi all the way to Netherlands, Poland and Mexico – racist is the last thing I am. Looking back at my posts, I really don’t see what portion of my debate prompted you to presume I am a racist. I really take that to heart, and if anyone else believes I came across as that way, then I humbly apologize, as I am not one.

    As far as me calling out on the intelligence of some people, I will accept that yes, I call a spade a spade. If that makes you have a certain opinion of me, I am not bothered by it one bit.

    Thirdly, I never claimed to be speaking on behalf of all Saudis, I don’t think that would ever be possible, and i would never claim as such. However, my opinions were based on the feelings of my 45 first cousins and 250 second and third cousins and close relatives who are third and forth generation Saudis, and several Saudi friends that I’ve made while growing up here. Additionally, my opinions also arose from conversations with Saudis that I’ve met in the several countries I have visited across the globe. Therefore, although I never claim that I speak for all Saudis, I do say that I only speak after having the input of a relatively large section of society.

    Now let me tell you where I believe your arguement is flawed. Your arguement revolves around the fact that you’ve seen foreigners without abaya. And I agree with you, I have seen the case as well. However, I don’t see how that can be the base on making an assumption regarding a rule, law or requirement. I don’t know the last time you visited Jeddah, but when you do, you’ll see that cars driving through red light, making illegal U-turns, driving on the wrong side of a one way street, and over-speeding is so common, that based on your way of thinking, you’d imagine it’s completely legal to do all that.

    My point is, my argue stems from looking up Article #41 o the Basic Saudi Law requiring all foreign residents (note how it doesnt mention Hajis and Umrah people) to observe and respect Saudi (not neccesarily Islamic) traditions and customs. Yes, it’s true that such laws at times are lax, and I am not arguing about that, but it doesnt mean that they are non-existent, or that you people use that as an excuse to attempt to break the law on a consistent basis and some people over here suggested. Although I never claimed that Carol intended break the law – it was more circumstantial. Additionally, many women have been asked to wear the abaya before leaving the airport, while others haven’t – highlights the fact that the implentation of laws and customs vaires from official to official – and I think someone else mentioned that already.

    I do respect your understanding of the law however, and it stems from the fact that it is followed differently in different parts of the country, so I don’t think anyone can blame us for having different interpertations of them.

    Anyways, I would like to bury the hatchet by saying we can agree to disagree on many matters regarding the abaya here. The truth is the abaya is here to stay for a while atleast, so let’s live in harmony with it. Change will happen when people are ready for it.

  146. Adnan…where the law says “respect” does it necessarily mean to follow…as in…respect the fact that many women here will customarily wear the abaya…so dont harrass them or make fun of them etc…and certainly dont wear one and make a mockery of it etc…but does it necessarily mean that to “respect “it means to consider it a must to wear one as well? Just wondering?

  147. coolred38, you do make a compelling point. And the Article is definately debatable in terms of its meaning. It can be looked at different ways, I agree. The fact that the full sentance was to “observe and respect” makes me believe that the word ‘observe’ denotes a sense of following being a requirement while in public. And the word respect can mean that you shouldn’t be not observing the customs in public and should not be encouraging others to disregard the customs either.

    Like I said, this could be one interpertation amongst several.

  148. coolred38, I totally agree with you regarding the attacking and other non-Islamic practices. Infact, if I were to make a list of the unIslamic practices officials in Saudi Arabia do, it’d be a big list. The truth is, there are many things fundamentally incorrect with practices in Saudi Arabia, and you know what, the requirement of a black cloak might be one of them too; I ceratainly feel denying women the opportunity to drive is one of them.

    But that’s not what my debate is about. And I apologize if I have come out too strongly with this view and my apologies for offending anyone during this debate. My concern has only been over the fact that ‘some’ foreigners have had little regard for other people’s customs and feel that they have the right to break the customs the way they please, simply because they have a different view on the matter. I personally feel that it is disrespectful and wrong to do. That’s it.

    On the other hand, many foreginers live peacefully and harmoniously within the society and are very much welcome within the Kingdom.

  149. Adnan,

    When you use racist words to talk to people you leave the impression that you are a racist. You have to deal with that. Let me explain, words like if you do not like it then leave the country are exactly what racist groups all over the world use to intimidate minority foreigners in their country. The fact is you could have stated your position without going there.

    The argument

    “My point is, my argue stems from looking up Article #41 o the Basic Saudi Law requiring all foreign residents (note how it doesnt mention Hajis and Umrah people) to observe and respect Saudi (not neccesarily Islamic) traditions and customs.”

    is flawed. Here is why: The words Traditions and Customs are too broad. In law you will need a criminal code that follows that statement, which includes what these customs mean. As it stands it is a guideline. Let me explain further, you may have a statement that says “all visitors will obey traffic rules of the country”. That statement will work well as there are traffic codes that detail what that means. In the absence of details such statement can be tested through prosecution of cases creating precedence. In Saudi that does not work yet as we do not have such practices in the judiciary where such broad statements can be tested by going through a system and reaching a supreme court. King Abdullah is trying to establish such system through his initiative to reform the judiciary. Without such system of codes and structure, you really cannot depend on the argument you stated. It is not specific, I did not see the word Abaya anywhere there. So what you are left with is what is practically allowed and I stated enough examples of that, which I won’t repeat.

    Regarding my visits to Saudi, I was in the country recently and I was in Jeddah and Riyadh. In Jeddah many expats will go without abaya. I know of a minority of Saudi women that exchanged the Abaya for a hijab and it is accepted. If you go to the upper scale restaurants and cafe’s you will see many Saudi women in the family sections with no cover at all. Although, I was in Riyadh for only a short period, I have been at a restaurant where some women did not wear an Abaya. This is all accepted and becoming the norm.

    Peace..

  150. Quite surprising to see people object to A. Bedu’s abaya-less figure will offend Saudis, yet disregard the offense the niqab causes to us Westerners.

    Arguments about hows Saudi is different to America doesn’t fly. Last time I checked Saudi was implementing “Islamic” laws yet Islam doesn’t REQUIRE the abaya.

  151. Wow! 149 comments in a post!!! I hope the 1st comment after the 150 is for me :).. I formatted my PC and I came to find many new articles and so inspiring comments. AmericanBedu, you have really good readers/commenters .. Anyway, just a quick comment since I gotta run for the Fri prayer which is after few mins. First of all, when I saw this number of comments, I thought that the comments took a religious side, but I was amazed that it wasn’t, and it’s a cultural debate.

    Saudi in the US, I don’t think anyone here mentioned that wearing a black Abaya is a religious requirement. Everyone agrees here that it’s a Saudi Cultural issue. There are many Saudis who choose to keep their “hijab” while abroad without wearing the Abaya. Also the black “tarha” is a gulf thing. If you look around in other Muslim countries, they wear “tarha” with other colors.

    I read this post as just a matter of sharing, and no religious side on it. to all check the labels , and you’ll find “Saudi tradition, Saudi Custom, culture” and the world religion is not mentioned . Why do we over emphasize thing and twist meanings to suit our own understanding — this is a mystery , I hope one day I’ll be able to solve it :)

    As a quick example that just came to mind. I remember a Saudi guy who was visiting a Church with his ESL class. This guy always wears a cap because he has a problem in his hair, and he didn’t like others to see it. When he was entering the church, someone at the entrance told him to remove the cap, he isn’t allowed to wear it in side. This guy out of respect took the cap off , and wore it when he entered . That BTW, was the first time ever the guys see the hair of this guy . the guy was a teenager BTW at that time ..

    Pease to all

    PS: in which city in the US do you live Saudi in the US — I know this is not of my business :) but just out of curiosity I’d like to know :).. Maybe I’ll ask you to invite me for a coffee some day :) Is it OK :)

  152. Khalid,

    I have not argued this from a religious prospective in all my comments, so I am puzzled that you took it that way. I argued about the definition of customs/laws and how they apply to expats.

    Regarding meeting, I use my real email on comments, so Carol can provide it to you if you like and we can have an exchange. I just do not want to post my email in a public forum.

    Regards

  153. Oh my. You opened up a whole can o’ worms here. :) I do however tend to agree with Nzingha. If I was in KSA, I would wear it for sure. Thats just that anthropologist in me wanting to blend in…
    anthrogeek10

  154. I didn’t state that you argued from a religious prospective. I just made it clear that everyone agrees that wearing “Abaya” is a traditional thing and not a religious one.

    I asked about the city, but of course, I’d not mind the e-mail too. Sure then, I’ll do…

  155. But my point is that the abaya isn’t so traditional anyway, it wasn’t worn all over KSA until women were forced to wear it.
    You can see on vintage photographs that women in KSA didn’t all wear abaya’s. And a few decennia do not an impenetrable tradition make.
    And this universal obligation to wear the abaya, even for foreigners, is even more recent, as Saudi in US has already told us. (And I have heard the same from many others.)

    The abaya is not traditional. Now I understand in some parts like Qassim women did wear niqab and black cloacks, But most Arab women in the rest of Arabia used mostly to wear long loose dresses, and have their long thick braids hanging down in front of them.

  156. Khalid,

    I am in the Dallas area. However, I travel across the country for business 30-40 weeks a year. That is a reason I think it is easier to email. I may be at a place near you soon, in that case you will be the host and will be buying :)

  157. There is a whole can of worms and a can of something else too it would seem … plus the kitchen sink.

    Look at the beautiful cultural dresses from before. I can see wearing a … something or other to protect the dress from getting dirty while you’re out and about … but always black? I know it goes with everything, but always? naaaahhh.

    Wasn’t Aisha extremely well known also for her preference for color? This is a wife of the Prophet, and yet … ???

    Where is that hadith? ….

  158. If I may summarize my understanding of what I have learned about the abaya from this dialogue: it is a Saudi custom of recent decades, strongly encouraged by the government for both Saudis and foreigners, and enforced by the muttawa as they see fit, with varying degrees of compliance by women and enforcement by the muttawa in different places and different regions, trending away from ubiquitousness.
    :-) As a side issue, I hope Khalid and Saudi in US, meet somewhere in North America, buy each other coffees and report back their solutions for all the posts here :-)

  159. Saudi in US- I’ve known several women who have been detained for not wearing an abaya. Chased down by the muttawwa for not wearing an abya. Have been harassed by the muttawwa for their abyas not covering as they like them to. And other conservative places yes women have been harassed for not wearing a scarf

    #2 those coming for hajj or umrah are not seen as residents and generally do no travel outside of mecca or madina and since thier presense in saudi is about a religious obligation no one will say anything to them. certainly not the norm for a western expat living in various parts of saudi. And lets be real Jeddah is in no way conservative riyadh. It is like two different countries!! :)

    #3 the us armed forces issues was about the ABAYA as well as other issues. before 2002 it was a rule in the armed forces for service women to wear an abaya when they were off duty and out and about in town. a rule.. that rule was changed (as well as others because an american service woman sued) and saudi leaders at the time screamed about insults and for not even consulting them.

    Now me and Mr. Man (the husband) differ a bit on this. Although I think he would faint if I said “hey man going out w/out my abaya today to cruise the shops of downtown khobar” according to him having a man around w/ you while your not wearing an abaya usually means you won’t be bothered of course you have to be white for this to work.(he usually sees expats out as a couple and not covered) but alone.. that is a different issue.

    This is all to say that women are subject to the whims of those in charge when they are out and about. While you may not be bothered one day for going out w/out an abaya the next day you can be. It is still very much the norm in most areas to go w/ the abaya and many companies implure women to go w/ an abaya to lesson the risk of harassment. A woman will have to make the choice.. risk sticking out like a true outsider and possibly offend residents of the country your in. or putting your abaya on and going about your business w/ no harassment issues at all.

    I think we all agree it isn’t a law, I think we all agree it is cultural, I think we all agree isn’t a religious mandate. But there is still very much risks involved w/ not wearing one.

  160. “possibly offend residents…”

    It doesnt sound like its the residents (as in the average Saudi) thats getting offended…but the “religious police”. Considering the muttawa have no legal power at all…why do they hold so much sway against the masses? Even if we agree that they are enforcing some kind of Islamic ideal…the abaya in no way resembles the likes of what the women wore in the Prophets day…and so why start wacking women with a stick for not wearing something not even Islamic by its very nature?

    I realize I have no say in Saudi as I dont live there…but I sure wish enough residents would step forth and take those sticks and wack those “little” men back…not for anything except to show them they have no power over the people…they are just little men with sticks…nothing more….just wishful thinking here.

  161. *oops…should have said…they are just little “boys” with sticks…no maturity involved when it comes to trying to get your “point” across with violence.

  162. This has gotten very interesting… the debate has gone all over the place… and all this because A.Bedu dared to exit her house without her 3baya and then posted it on her blog!

    Anyway, my comment will be about the Haya or the Religious Police here in Saudi. I have had MANY interactions with them, as I don’t cover my face, I have been told many times to ‘qati wajhek y’al mara’ Cover your face woman/lady’. I have had some that were plain and simply rude, yet I have met some that were actually very KIND. They were polite, and spoke to me with complete respect. (BTW, they no longer use sticks to hit people). On the other hand I have had woman and men who were NOT from the religious police (there are MALE AND FEMALE Haya) make comments to me, that I should cover my face, and once even got a lecture from a man that woman like me are the reason why they say hell has more woman then men (btw.. there are more woman in general in this world, so perhaps we are more in both places). Anyway my point here was that NOT all the haya are bed men or women.. they are simply HUMAN beings doing their jobs.. some may be awful as people and thus awful as enforcers.. (just like the bad cops we have all over the world). So to all the people not in Saudi, I would just like to make it clear that they are not all evil.. some are actually kind spoken.

  163. I agree with Nzinga, that regardless this discussion, Bedu was lucky to get out of this adventure without any scratches! It all depends on who you meet. And I was worried when I read the post.

    Susan, what’s wrong with Black???? ;)

  164. coolred- I stated before here in this overflowing discussion :) that from my interactions with Saudis on this issue that yes, more often than not men and women are offended by women who choose not to wear an abaya out and about. I think some of it isn’t really about the abaya itself but other social issues that tend to seperate the average saudi household and that of the western expatriate household.

    Om Lujain- I don’t find any use for the hayya at all. Mr. Man (the husband) born and raised in the land differs with me. He says there isn’t enough hence the social problems. Even if there are some nice ones out there, I find their function and their unaccountability when they mess up to be a huge problem.

    Susan- the whole deal with black was to not attract attention. However if you really see the abayas now they are so glammed up, some with additional beautiful fabrics, with additional bright colors, and some that are so form fitting you wonder why bother with the abaya at all. It isn’t just a black cape.. there are ones that are just simply beautiful and much western clothing pals in comparison. Why westerners don’t choose to have more fun w/ their abayas is beyond me. Incorporate designs that you life, colors you like, put in a message if you want.

  165. Yes…a message would be good. How about stitching the following onto the back of your abaya…

    I am forced to wear this because the men around me are fearful of my body…of my presence…of my female qualities….and because they cannot control themselves when faced with such daunting sexuality.

    A little too much? What do you think?

  166. Westerners do, from what I’ve seen, but some “fun” and “color” into their abaya(s) … I have myself … as have others.

    The response is to what is generally depicted in the pictures coming from, in this discussion, Saudi, showing the overwhelming majority, and choice of color, in the overgarment, is black. Not the dresses under them, which are as I know very colorful and expressive.

    If there are other depictions of the outer abaya being other than black, would be great to see them, but as we are at odds regarding locational constraints … we must leave it in the hands of those who are there to send pictorials.

    I think it would be great!

  167. Aafke, I love black! It goes with everything … it’s very seductive really, wearing it, glowing beneath, plus the scarf that flattens your hair down … at the end of the day, it’s hard to believe hair is a woman’s beauty! ;)

    Bu it gets boring wearing the same thing. And tho still you don’t have to worry about what to wear … I’ll just grab this thing and go outdoors … ah, the frustration of it all! :)

    idk, I fear I would be locked up on my second day, if not as soon as I got out of the airport. lol.

    How can they not restrain themselves? I’m not much to look at .. I’m older, a little fluffy … And yet we women are able to restrain ourselves gazing upon the handsomeness of man …difficult as it can be sometimes, they’ve a tendency to say something too cute and … though still, having that ability of restraint, we’re …somehow still lacking, idk .. something doesn’t add up. I looked at the equations, looked and checked again … it’s just a paradox I guess. ;)

  168. http://www.essenceofblack.com/denim_abaya.htm
    internet shop with lots and lots of all kinds of abay, scarves, etc.

  169. Susan, I love black! I always wear black ! ;)
    And I have noticed how some saudi men in thin thobes with the light behind them can look very, very sexy! Probably a good thing I’m here and not with you in Saudi Arabia, with all those jummie men walking around in light thobes! Not sure if I could restrain myself! :mrgreen:

  170. cool- I think it is a little too long only a tall gal could wear it :)

    Susan- I’ve seen some blues in saudi. but I’ve seen some fabulous ones in Bahrain. This one lady incorporates other colored fabric into the black abaya.. she does a liner with such pretty fabric and it looks really cool and expensive. One day I’m going to get one. Most westerners I’ve seen don’t have enough fun w/ their abayas. I think it is because they hate it so much.

    And I don’t think any guy is cute at this point.. five kids..every man is ugly to me right about now :)

  171. Nzingha…lol. Well the font could be smaller…and then when a man is caught ‘reading” a swift back kick will send him flying…oops thats the ninja wannabe in me talking…ha ha. :)

  172. My experience with obligatory clothing (not the abaya of course, yet) would support the idea of embracing it, having as much style fun as possible, and making discreet statements with hidden symbols if necessary. :-)

  173. Aafke, thankya for the links. There are a few things there I like, will look more. Here in Washington DC, I have to wear black every day at work … have to … no options, no choices … from morning to night, 5 days a week. …

    I’d forgotten how the light can catch thru the thobe, but if what’s in it doesn’t come home with me … I have to avert my gaze! ;) boo hiss, I do recall certain times when that was particularly difficult.. But it would have been just as difficult in western clothes too .. this guy was so good looking I had to excuse myself and leave the room! I’m like “I got-ta go, I think there’s something downstairs I need to do … ummm yeah, okay I got-ta go now.”

    When I did work for an organization where I could wear the abaya and more “traditional” Islamic attire, I loved it. I loved having an opportunity to wear it again this past Ramadan.

    I’ve kind of found here, stateside, not wearing it all the time, makes wearing when you are able, all the more special. I’ve found it’s those times of focused intent, when I’m gearing up to do inner work, etc, the hijab goes on … I’m finding that I’m learning to wear the inner hijab at times, the outer at other times, and both, at more poignant times. I love those poignant times the most. I don’t know if this makes sense …?

  174. Ouch! light behind the thobe…. :)

  175. Coolred, it would be great to incorporate your (very long) sentence in an embroidery on the bottom…. :D You can’t imagine how many people come to my blog when searching for ”Abaya” or ”design abaya” or ”making abaya”
    Must be a bit of a shock for them…
    Ending up on my blog…
    I’m thinking of putting up a post on making an abaya as there seem so many people yearning for something like that.

  176. Aafke…maybe we can put the abaya to use and use them as advertising…like billboards. I think I might be on to something…. :)

  177. 179 comments!!!!!!!! What have you done, Oh Carol?!

    I can’t go through so many comments after mine! I’ll just read what my Aafke and Coolred have to say!

  178. I think this was quite common in the past-I think the 80′s. An expat showed me pictures of her dating to that time, wearing jeans with her children in a street here in Riyadh.
    Nowadays I have only seen women near King Faisal Hospital without them, the diplomatic quarters and also a one off.
    It is true, no one will or can say anything, because they cannot speak to a woman in the first place:)
    Only the haya police will interfere if they want, but I feel their activities have been curbed lately.

  179. Redarding the haya ( sorry if I am a bit off topic :) ),,,,yes some haya are polite and some rude sure…but from islamic point of view, their existence is wrong. There is no compulsion in Islam, thus the existence of such a workforce contradicts the basic principles of the religion.
    The mutawa is a totally different concept- they are volunteers that are kind spoken and do not have legal power to enforce attire or anything for the matter. They just help people that come into contact with them.

  180. Talk about abaya’s and the Commission for the Propagation of Vice and the Prevention of Virtue, I read on a Saudi wopman’s blog today that there has been a big abaya-raid on the abaya shops in Riyad, and all abaya’s with a touch of colour, or a touch of ”worldliness” have been confiscated!!! Apparently warehouses and factories have also been hit.

    So much for daring to put some individuality into your abaya.
    Defenitely my next post will be to make your own embellished abaya!

  181. Aafke, your are joking, right?? I cannot believe this….Are you talking about this week? Can you send the link to the blog?

  182. Not joking. Not only are abaya’s with coloured embroidery forbidden, apparently the shop-clerk was told off for having a customer sitting in a chair while discussing an order. And the chairs and mirror had to be removed.
    Can somebody explain to me what is vice or immodest about sitting in a chair whjile dicussing your order?
    I have asked the lady in question if she will allow me to link to her blog.

  183. I’m sorry but that is too funny …

  184. I had also read about the crackdown some time ago and now here http://www.arabianbusiness.com/532462-saudi-religious-police-in-abaya-crackdown

    Chairs and mirrors are a new one though.

  185. Good job American Bedu!!

    To Mohammad and Adnan – I honestly don’t think you have any say in this matter as you have never worn the abaya and will never wear the abaya.

    As a muslim woman myself, I think Abayas and black gloves and black socks are ridiculous. Modesty in clothing is all that is required of men AND women.

    I have Saudi friends and they would much rather do without it too.

    Umm Latifa, Nzingha – Misyar is allowed and legal by the law of your country, so is the marriage of 12 yr olds? Will you defend those attitudes as well?

    Saudi Arabia is NOT the world. Wake up, we live in the 21st century, you like it or not, there will be a lot more intermingling of cultures and societies and unless you want to abandon your veil and abaya when you step out of the country, please refrain from forcing women who are not comfortable wearing those items in your country.

    P.S. I was in Dammam airport once and I didn’t have to cover.

  186. Chiara, there were raids in June too .

  187. Ah, yes… I read that Oman won a football match against KSA, and they were all thanking Allah for answering their prayers… It’s clear Allah doesn’t support KSA anymore!
    Time KSA gets it’s act together I think.

  188. [...] On this site, you can read how earlier last year women started to experiment with colours, and at the bottom of the apge you can read there how costumes used to be colourful, and that the ubiqutous black abaya was actually imported from Persia. In Jeddah, some hussies leave their abayas open, or even wear labcoats when they pop out for a sip of coffee!!!! And we all know how shocking that is! At least when you read the outraged comments on bedu’s blog after she blurted out her shopping spree in Riyad wearing a long labcoat! [...]

  189. Really I am schoked! I am wondering though,,,,What are they doing after with all the abayas??? Do they dispose them? Do they compensate the shopowner who legally brought them to the shop?
    Something really doesn’t sound right here, because these abaya’s are someone’s legal property and they just disappear. Hmmmmm……..

  190. Sarwat- I hope you realize that your question to me has nothing at all to do with abayas or if a foriegn woman in saudi should wear one. Such means are a way to deflect from the subject at hand rather than discuss any issues that I or anyone has brought up.

    And even if a man doesn’t wear an abaya doesn’t mean he can’t hold a view on the issue at hand. And notice how easily you dismiss their male view because it may not agree w/ your own.

  191. Gig-girl, they will sell the abayas later on to get funds for the blackmarker-squad.

    I don’t know… it rather easy for men to prescribe unwieldy suffocating black abayas for women while they themselves are much more comfotable in thin see-trough wite cotton, or western clothes, or shorts…

    For the link to saudiwomans report on the abaya raid:
    http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/confiscated-abayas/

  192. What a perfect opportunity. Only highlighted because it’s during the month of Safar – too funny – shops, warehouses raided and were emptied out of adorned abayas.

    What a perfect opportunity, the gentlemen from vice and virtue amply provided a fitting opportunity to respond with “Really?” :Reeeally?”

    I will pretend I’m sitting in Riyadh … my abaya order has not arrived. Someone, who is not my husband, and is certainly not me, has chosen to decide to remove even the slightest embellishment from my “fashion selection”.

    Subhan’allah. You have not only “smoked” my husband’s dollar … you “smoked” mine.

    So I will smoke in my own way too. Any plain abayas I have, will go in the incinerator and I will take this opportunity the gentlemen of the vice and virtue cooperative have provided and walk outside with my woman friends and family … with my supportive husband and uncles, etc.

    And we will make the point that in your zeal to empty out the shops and warehouses – during the month of Safar – you have left me with nothing to wear, but this lovely colorful dress, making its statement in the beautiful sun from Allah.

    Example: “I was waiting for the shop to deliver my new order of abayas so I got rid of the other ones … I raided and emptied out my own little warehouse in preparation for the new ones.

    But you have taken them … I am upset, my husband is upset, the family is upset, so how can you say you uphold if you leave me with nothing to wear? You have left many ladies with nothing to wear. ”

    I am good natured about this, I have a very good sense of humor.

    And then I would sit back and wait … probably in jail ;) … for the new line of abayas (we know it’s coming) to be introduced in the warehouses and shops, people will have work, the wealth of the confiscated abayas will no doubt find there way to locations around the world … the sun will shine, the birds will sing. The raiding gentlemen will possibly be somewhat embarrassed, I will too because I will no doubt be sitting in the pokey … it’s okay … we’ll play cards and we’ll all get over it and have a good laugh.

    Too much??? Unrealistic ???

  193. hi, I’m hindu and was recently in ksa on business, I’m a dr and my specialist services were reqd.(let’s leave it at that) , i told the embassy folks and everyone who would listen that i was hindu and from where i come we cover don’t cover our heads, well widows do and since no one died i wasn’t planning to. and if that was a problem then they should let me know and probably travel to my place to receive treatment. Apparently in such cases the abaya rule is waived. i walked in and out of all places sundry withot a cre in the world.. no abaya, of course modestly dressed in a salwar kammez.. again wearing cool light pretty colors.. so yes there’s a cultural significance to the abaya and yes we should do in rome as romans do, but apparently when it’s something the saudi’s want all rules can go to the dogs.. hmmm interesting.. i also went to a party and talked to a lot of guys, pretty decent and they didn’t swoon @ my beauty :-)

  194. Sounds like fun and “reasonable accomodation” as they say here. Now I can only fantasize about a specialty that would warrant such exemptions, except that Drs seem to get away with lab coat and pants, and non-Muslims don’t need a headscarf usually. A colourful salwar kameez with a loose scarf also passed for acceptible in Iran on the lead Dr’s wife. I’m sure the men were very decent and secretly swooning. :-)

  195. [...] Bling reminds me of this post by PeacefulMuslimah and that reminds me of this popular post by American Bedu. Frankly, when everyone is covered in boring black from head to toe, any other colour draws [...]

  196. wow….I’m away several days and the comments are still going!

    I think that colorful abayas are being confiscated -again- because it is near Valentines day and already shopkeepers are removing their red roses as it gets too close to “that fateful” day.

    I do not remember whose comment but I should write a future post about men in their thobes and modesty! Just like when women dress (abaya or not) they are expected to dress modestly in KSA. The same is supposed to apply to men as well but let me tell you during the hottest months you will see men in very light fabric thobes who have chosen not to wear their sunnah underpants or boxers underneath and therefore are quite revealing. It is NOT sexy NOT attractive but it IS embarrassing and very awkward to encounter such a situation. Why do some of these Saudi men do that?!

  197. Oh, I was beginning to think “going commando” in a see-through thobe was a figment of Aafke’s vivid and interesting imagination. Just based on statistical likelihood of darker rather than lighter private parts and the intense Saudi sun, it is hard to imagine these men think they are being modest. Is this an excuse to show off the “family jewels? Or has my mind made leaps and they are actually wearing briefs?

    Not yet having experienced this visual phenomenon, I am only reminded of Italian men persisting in wearing a microscopic bathing suit long after their bodies have lost any attractiveness in such “attire”. Holding on to a fictitious youth?

  198. Zhinga and your friends you all are psycho.Why are such an angry woman.I was in Riyadh for few months must say the place is psycho.I hated that black thing and of course i treated it like shit.It was begining winter when I left and i just did not know how to wear.Only super ugly,fat,low self esteem women likes that ibaya thing,must say it’s a nice hideout for food addicts I Respect muslim culture,but i think pakistanis in Saudi are way too religious.One conversersion with them next time they show up in your house with the quran.psychos lol.

  199. Ok, ok, yes, it was me. I said that saudi blokes in thin thobes with the sun behind the look sexy, but naturally I meant when wearing sunni-pants too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it wasn’t my imagination, it was in a documentary on the governor of hail!

    And thank you for putting that gross image without sunni-pants in my mind Bedu!!!!!!
    I’m sure I can’t sleep tonight now, and when I finally doze off, I will wake up, bathing in sweat and screaming my head off. And next week they will have carted me off to the funny-farm, screaming and wrapped in wet towels!!!!!!
    No more blogging!!!!!!!!!!!

  200. well Chiara I think most will wear some form of briefs but every once in a while if the sun is right, briefs or not you get a full preview. )-:

  201. @Aafke — ROTFL!!!!!

  202. American Bedu–I guess the “preview” challenges the advisability of lowering one’s gaze, unless it is to the floor LOL :-)

    Aafke–also ROTFl. But take heart, they no longer use wet towels, but rather a nice little injection, that will make you feel sooooo calm, sooooo happy… :-)

  203. The bigger issue here is not whether you get an unexpected eyeful or not…when men are going commando under the thobe…but why doesnt anyone have the nerve to point out their fashion (jewlery) mistake…(letting family jewels hang out…as someone said)…nobody seems to hesitate over informing women (and not always kindly) that hair is showing or some sking.

    So hair…skin…NO NO…Big (Little) Jim and the Boys…AOK? :(

  204. btw dont ask me what “sking” is…not sure but it doesnt sound attractive :(

    btw btw …not sure if I should have said Big (Little) Jim and the Boys…or something a little more culturally specific like… Big (Little) Ahmed and the Houris

  205. What is sking???
    Houris are grapes, everybody is getting grapes in heaven :D

  206. sking…was supposed to be skin

    houris is the equivelint of balls…nuts…what have you…similar to nuts meaning the same thing…

    was trying to make a joke..it fell flat i guess :(

  207. No…. I was being very dim…. sorry…….

  208. Sounds like it is time to “cover” our verbiage. LOL :-)

    Male modesty, both in dress and behaviour,
    would make a good topic for a post,

    Some cross cultural confusions are because modest ME men are respectfully not making eye contact with their Western female employer, interviewer, professor or male superior, and are misunderstood as being uninterested, lacking in confidence, rude, deceptive or angry (to name a few).

  209. Just out of curiousity, Chiara, Aafke, Coolred, Bedu … are you all Muslim?

  210. Nzingha – Please correct me if I am wrong but in the Quran, it is not stated to cover like Saudis do. Modesty in clothes is asked of. So, the abayas are man-made. The rules are enforced by men (religious police). So if these men who made up the rules and enforces them never had to endure a day in the abaya, then they shouldn’t have any say correct?

    Also, you were the one who was adamant about stating wearing abayas is the law of the land thus you can’t criticize or fight it. The two things I pointed out is also the law of the land. Then you are telling me you would defend misyar and child brides because obviously if you didn’t agree with it, you wouldn’t be living there?

    Live and let live, ya? If you don’t want to uncover, let that be your choice. The beauty of Islam is that there is no persuasion and force. Let’s celebrate that.

  211. Chiara–baptized Roman Catholic, first Holy Communion, not Confirmed (too bad, didn’t get to pick a saint’s name to add to my other “Christian names”); married (Islamically and legally) to a Muslim; working in a Jewish hospital and an arguably Jewish branch of medicine. Probably best described as an Abrahamic Existentialist. Have studied a number of religions formally and informally for related scholarship and clinical practice.

  212. Susan – I realize you are a newcomer to my blog for I have addressed my faith in several previous posts.

  213. Susan…does knowing my religion affect how you might view and or accept my answers or comments ^^o)just wondering…my blog tells all.

  214. Read my blog
    :mrgreen:

  215. On the contrary, it’s helps to understand how a thing is being viewed.

    Thank you all for your answers. :)

  216. Susan–don’t you care about the others’ viewpoints? :-)
    On the other hand, it is probably either clear or immaterial.

  217. I try to be unbiased when I present views irrespective of my chosen religion. i guess it’s for ya’ll to tell me if I am successful in that aspect!

  218. I appreciate all viewpoints, and have enjoyed those presented here and elsewhere.

  219. American Bedu–you are, in my opinion, successfully unbiased, and I greatly appreciate that.

    Susan–thank you for clarifying further, I too enjoy all the viewpoints, including yours, here and elsewhere.

  220. I thank you very much for your comment and for your enjoyment of my viewpoints. ;)

  221. I second that Susan in thanking you for providing your viewpoints here and with other posts.

    Chiara – thank you! I hope that when I am not biased on a perspective I’m upfront in stating so!

  222. And I would like to thank the Academy of Bedu that allowed me and all my fellow bloggers to practice our blogging craft with such esteemed company.

    And I want to thank my Mother as well…without whom none of this would be possible. Thanks Mom *waving*
    :) :) :) :) :) :) ;)

  223. Thanks everybody :mrgreen:

  224. Oh, a love fest, how genuinely nice :-)

  225. I got back here after a few days absence. I live in Morocco, and have never heard personally here of anyone getting acid thrown on them. However, when discussing this happening in another country with my Moroccan husband, he told me it DOES happen in Morocco, too. I would rely on your Saudi husband to tell you if it happens in Saudi, as he probably knows more than you might hear from non-Saudi’s or in the media.

  226. Expat21–thanks for belatedly clarifying your earler comment, although I am sorry to hear that acid throwing has happened in Morocco. Is this a recent development along with the Islamist suicide bombings? I hope American Bedu lets us know if acid has spread to Saudi. I am surprised because despite reading a variety of international sources I haven’t come across this outside of South Asia or more recently Afghanistan.

  227. Sorry to keep you ladies waiting, my esteemed presence was required elsewhere … and I’m looking for Sir Walter to place his jacket over the puddle of something or other that’s just been put down … ;)

  228. well, I think this short simple (?) post gets the gold medal for the most comments!

  229. Yet we never did learn what your husband thought of your abayaless adventure.

  230. I’m sure I mentioned it in some of the comments above…

    He was supportive. He just told me to be careful and aware of the potential risks. He was comfortable with the length of my bulky coat and knew that I was not trying to purposely attract attention to myself in that (in his view) I was not immodestly attired even sans abaya.

  231. I should add this has been gradual support. When we first arrived in KSA he was more concerned about me “fitting in” and wearing same as majority of Saudis. We had discussions on this issue and I explained my feelings that when appropriate I had no qualms but otherwise needed to retain my individuality and personality. I felt that if I just started to conform, eventually I’d lose myself.

  232. American Bedu–Thanks especially for this last comment. This is part of the acculturation-reacculturation dynamic in many marriages since both partners are newly adjusting to the culture, and how to be a mixed marriage in that culture. Ultimately if one partner loses his or her self neither is in the marriage they intended. The partner who is “home” may be ensuring the spouse’s behaviour earns respect but has to come to an accomodation with his culture and whom he married.

    I read an article on cross-cultural marriages that included the example of a French woman moving to Morocco with her husband. Since they were part of a wealthier more cosmopolitan (NB at least superficially) family and community, she had more lee-way. However, he did ask that she tone down her dress when out shopping as it was giving him difficulties in explaining her behaviour to family, and he was worried about the more zealous of his compatriots. She agreed as it seemed a reasonable compromise.

  233. Marriage is always full of compromises….even when not a bi-cultural marraige!

  234. Agreed!

  235. PS sometimes the cultural component is protective of the marriage!

  236. Bedu, it’s not the length of the post that matters. IN this case I think the title alone would have been enough.
    Abandoned woman!

    Let’s look at oit logically: in a swealtering hot country you are to wear TWO sets of clothes to be ”modest”. I truly think that is totally insane and you’d have to be insane and hypocritical to boot to consider only women with abaya to be ”properly modest”
    If I had been out with bedu I would have worn an abaya.

    and chanel no5 underneath.

  237. “eventually I’d lose myself…”

    been there done that :(

  238. You know what, with all I’ve been through lately I’ve realized there are many more important things in life that do matter and make a difference instead of whether I’m going to wear an abaya or not!

    Maybe recent events and not being a young woman have just made me more stubborn…

    not only did I go out this evening without an abaya but my stepson was kind enough to take my arm and help me walk since I still need a bit of assistance after my surgery. The abaya would have just been a further hindrance in my present condition!

  239. But, but, but your stepson would be a Saudi wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he have been too offended by your arrogance to assist your walking? Maybe it isn’t Saudis that are the ones that are offended after all?

  240. Perhaps as in other social justice issues medical doctors could do their part by prescribing abayalessness:

    Abaya once a day only if necessary X 3 months
    then once per week X 3 months
    then once per month x 3 months
    then once per 3 months
    then taper to discontinuation
    [has to be gradual to prevent abaya withdrawal by the wearer or the community]

    In the mean time you are right to go out without, and lucky to have such a great stepson!

  241. Bedu said: “You know what, with all I’ve been through lately I’ve realized there are many more important things in life that do matter and make a difference instead of whether I’m going to wear an abaya or not!”

    And there you have it!

    Amin wa Amen …

    Chiara: The prescription could also read “prn” (or, as needed).

  242. Susan-yes I had that in the original version, especially since I write alot of prn’s in my day job, but took it out–could have gone all latinate

    abaya trans tergum et caput
    qd prn repX III menses
    tunc qseptimana prn repX III menses
    tunc qm repX III menses
    tunc qIIIm repX III menses
    tunc minue ad desistere
    mitte: I

    Notice the patient only gets 1 abaya–the better to encourage abayalessness (“extinction” and “benign neglect” of behavioural interventions–combined prescription and therapy is always more effective)

    Thanks for the inspiration :-) .

  243. Yes, my stepson is indeed a Saudi in his mid-twenties so he did break cultural barriers holding my arm while we were out publicly and me sans abaya. We did see one individual who appeared “muttawa-like” with the straggly beard, piercing eyes, short thobe. This individual looked at us but whether it was the pain he saw in my eyes, the determination he saw in my eyes to walk in spite of the pain or the “don’t mess with me tonight or I’ll pounce like a wounded tiger look” in my eyes, he simply looked and then averted his eyes. I found everyone (majority Saudis given where we were) to be very kind and helpful. And a long abaya would have been a dangerous deterrent under the circumstances.

  244. First of all, this was a most fascinating conversation, so thanks to all (even though I stayed up an hour and a half reading every single post!). I’m hopping on the wagon late, but this was so interesting I felt compelled to vomit out some of my thoughts:

    Throughout this entire thread I kept remembering the experience of a woman and her daughter who visited Iran (I really really wish I could remember where exactly I read this). She and her daughter were determined to give no offense and went for the very conservative chadors that have to be held shut from the inside, leaving only one hand free (unless you get your teeth involved!). Soon after their arrival they were quietly and politely taken aside by some of their female hosts and told that their decision was disappointing and offensive to many of the Iranian women coming into contact with them. Said Iranian women enjoyed being able to wear hijab and a long coat and weren’t all too keen on these foreign women coming in, reifying a certain very conservative mode of dress, and playing into the hands of domestic groups that would like to move female dress standards towards that type of covering. On the other hand, I’m sure other Iranians perceived their actions differently.

    I found Adnan’s argument compelling and reasonable, up to the point where (correct me if I am wrong) it is assumed that it is easy and obvious to determine what dress is appropriate and/or respectful and/or diplomatic in a given context. (I’d argue instead that it is often an art unto itself) I’d agree that the ends of the spectrum are obvious but point to the above story as a cautionary tale that the obvious end points are often heavily inflected with personal and political meaning. For women trying to strike out somewhere in the middle, very small details often have great signaling power and it is all too easy to get it ‘wrong’. And it goes without saying that privilege associated with ethnicity, class, wealth, citizenship, and ect means that different women are being held to different standards in different situations. And the ultimate question of who gets to ‘decide’ what the standards are is fraught… with a whole lot of other weighty things…

    I found Nzingha’s analysis in terms of risk very interesting myself, just because it was the exact inverse of what I experienced in Egypt. (I know, apples and oranges, but still worth saying). To paraphrase, the choice facing women expats in SA is to buck the general trend towards covering and stick out (with accompanying consequences) or attempt to ‘blend’ and thus duck a certain amount of harassment aimed at women.

    In Egypt (in my experience) the opposite was true. The more outrageously bare and ‘foreign’ looking you were, the likelier you were to be insulated from street harassment by a pervasive culture of ‘protect-the-budget-tourists-from-Europe’. The more you tried to blend, the more likely you would be exposed to the same level of harassment (scarily high and often overtly physical/sexual) directed at Egyptian women every day. Didn’t matter how much you covered- older ladies in niqab were just as likely to be groped/harassed/forcibly stripped of covering as young girls in tight jeans and hijab. Different situation with different consequences, but very illustrative of the way that fear (of harassment, of violence, even of talk) can pressure women into dressing protectively even when facts on the ground show that violence can happen to any woman at any time. (Of course, it’s a different set of equations when the state or agents of the state inflict this violence as opposed to private
    individuals.)

    Finally the pervasive link between women’s decisions on how to dress and rape culture/victim blaming is troubling. While the standard of modesty might vary widely by locale, the underlying logic of ‘she asked for it’ is just as prevalent on the South Side of Chicago as it is in Cairo (and as it is in some of the conversation threads above). In my opinion it is this underlying logic that must be addressed rather than individual decisions or the specific manifestations of the issue in a particular society. Not to say that context is unimportant (clearly it’s critical), but some thought processes are surprisingly universal.

  245. And on that note, thanks for bearing with me. I hit submit and then was aghast at how much I wrote.

  246. Liz,

    welcome and I very much enjoyed your comments. Since there have been sooooo many comments on this post (which I am certainly NOT objecting to) it made yours all the more interesting to read as you did a synopsis/analysis of all that had been said from beginning to end.

    I hope that you will be sure and comment on other posts too.

    Best Regards,
    Carol

  247. Looks like I have the honour of making comment #250!

    Liz, I second American Bedu’s thanks for your overview and perspective.

    American Bedu–bravo to you, your stepson, and the Muttawa-like man with the high IQ or at least high EQ! I would have expected Saudis to be compassionate toward someone obviously medically unwell, but bravo to them to!

  248. Hi,

    I just discovered this really interesting blog you’ve got..
    As a Muslim woman, I LOVE wearing my abaya…I started wearing it as a sophomore in college. I don’t think its restricting at all, and find it helps me get ready 90% faster. I guess the big thick ones in Saudi are more difficult to control?

    But, as for you not wearing it in Saudi, if its the law, I think you should wear it. Firstly, its scary what could happen and I have heard some weird stories…
    Also, I understand what some of the people mean by some Saudis taking it as disrespectful. The thing is; a lot of the native women wear an abaya, but then the eyes that DO show are coated with enough makeup to make them look like they’ve just stepped out of a MAC ad. And then the abayas are super tight anyways… But, I have only been to one city, so maybe its different in Riyadh.
    I think its your choice what you want to wear, and although I love abayas, I don’t like that the country forces people to wear it. I think it turn a lot of people away from Islam and the real reasons we are supposed to wear it, and their intentions of wearing it also.
    Just my opinion….2 weeks after the last comment :D

  249. thanks for sharing your thoughts ab828! The abaya is a cultural tradition rather than legally mandated. Since writing this post I am seeing more and more women in Riyadh without abayas or very modern and open abayas.

  250. Read this article this morning in the Saudi Gazette, that while not about the abaya specifically, relates to the scarf:

    http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2009022730560

    “Scarf ban violates rights – HRW

    BERLIN – Laws banning female teachers from wearing the Islamic headscarf in parts of Germany violate the rights of Muslim women, according to a report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

    The ban, in force in half of the 16 German states, “discriminates against Muslim women, excluding them from teaching and other public sector employment on the basis of their faith,” the report said.

    HRW said countries that forbid the wearing of the headscarf, or hijab, violate women’s rights. [...]“

  251. I must find the link for there is also other big news that just happened in KSA… four Saudi women drove their SUV around the Corniche yesterday in Jeddah!

  252. Yihaaaaa!!!! *\o/*

    So I won’t have to bring a beard?

  253. According to Al Hayat Newspaper 4 Saudi females were spotted in a Toyota SUV driving around the Corniche in Jeddah. An onlooker, upon noticing a Saudi female at the wheel, called and reported the incident to the police. Police arrived on the scene but the Saudi females got away without being apprehended!

    But bring your beard, Aafke, just in case…

  254. Good for them! :mrgreen

  255. Progress on both European and Saudi tolerance! :D

  256. Bloody squeal! Is there nothing in the Quran about tale-telling?

  257. But you see, Susan, how can you violate someone’s religious freedoms when the argument is that the headscarf or abaya IS NOT religiously mandated?

    If I was a police officer I would pull over any car that had 4 people driving it no matter their gender! lol

  258. I don’t know Lynn, in the hadith about the time Aisha went out with the Prophet and it says she put on her headcovering and her veil … it was that push in the chest thing Achelois mentioned in a post … whereever it is right now. Maybe it’s in the hijab issue section.

    However, this issue was argued successfully in Turkey.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-02-06-turkey-head-scarf-ban_N.htm

    If for secular societies it is just a piece of cloth, then where’s the harm? If she wants to wear it, so what? Let her. There are innocent women put in the middle of this tug of war … wear it, don’t wear it, wear it sometimes? What’s the big deal? Maybe she should take her clothes off instead.

    On the other hand, maybe she shouldn’t give a hoot what other people think. ;)

    Personally I think this little “jihad” can be good in the long run. People learn, issues and topics become clearer, people get stronger. Alhamdulilah. :)

  259. so my jihad is choosing occasionally to go out without an abaya? (smile)

  260. Is that personal spiritual development jihad or individual jihad in defense of Islam? :)

  261. Its annoying to know that there are people in Saudi ready and willing to call the cops if they see a woman driving…its not even against the law…so why are they calling the cops?

  262. I don’t know that I would say it was ‘argued successfully’. If that were the case then everyone would be in agreement wouldn’t they? As it is there is a significant number that still wants the ban and is planning on fighting it. And IF they are to lift the ban there will be regulations on how they can wear it so that it doesn’t look ‘Islamic’ so what does that say?
    Who said that it is just a piece of cloth in a secular society? If they thought it was just a piece of cloth they wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    ‘Maybe she should take her clothes off instead’

    But of course, it has to be all or nothing doesn’t it? I’d vote for nothing anyway, those women are comfortable with themselves and save a lot of time and money!

  263. Let it go Lynn … new cup :)

  264. the whole discussion is a farce,the Saudis want to do what ever they want when they travel anywhere in the world,when someone says something about muslims its called rasicm,even thou countries they travel to don’t like what they ware,we let them practise their religion,even have mousque’s,but when the westeners travel to their countries all the rules change.Lets be real,we all need to respect each others religion ,but don’t force us to do things we dont want to do,it is not our religion,we do respect it,but we don’t have to practiese it
    this is the way towards world democracy and friendship

  265. thanks for sharing your view dothodox.

  266. I just recalled something that I had read a year or so back. I can’t remember where I read it, maybe Arab News but I won’t swear to it.

    Anyhoo, it was about non-Saudi men being arrested FOR wearing traditional Saudi clothes in KSA.

    Do you recall anything about that Carol? And what does that say about the need to follow the ‘cultural tradition’ in clothing when visiting or living in a country?

  267. I have not read all the posts but it is interesting. I am flabbergasted that anyone would walk out without an abaya. Good for you Carol-!!!!!–but please be careful.
    I have an abaya from my days in the Middle East-but a very decorative one, something that can pass as an evening gown. ( The Sadorsky crystals scattered about) Funny enough, even those who cannot stand the fact women most cover give nothing but oohs, and aahs when I show them the abaya I bought in Dubai.
    O.K. as far as the plain, shapless ones, no way—-boooorinnng. And yes, when it is 120 F, the black is painful to wear.

  268. Lynn – I’m not aware of any such action.

    And for what it is worth, since my spouse and i flew out of the Kingdom today I even went to the airport without an abaya as I knew I sure wouldn’t wear it at my destination!

  269. An abayaless destination, the perfect escape!

  270. So you DID make reservations at that nudist colony I told you about? Good for you! Have fun!

  271. @Lynn – ROTFL!

    I’m back in the States for a brief period and since I am not a fond advocate of the abaya I was not going to board the plane with one and bring it to the States so I simply went to the airport wearing my coat…and thank goodness I did — it is SO COLD back here!!! And stay tuned…these recent travels have generated several new upcoming blog posts I hope all will enjoy.

  272. Here I’ve been working my fingers to the bone and all Bedu can do is cheer about not wearing it or taking it anywhere… :roll:

  273. but bear in mind, it is getting hot in Riyadh again so you need to start thinking about the lightweight abaya!

  274. Well, it will be warming up very soon Carol, just sit tight a bit. I can’t wait to hear what new post you are going to have for us. I hope you’ve been doing a lot of playing with that new grandbaby of yours.

  275. I wish I could say that the grandbaby brought us to the States but unfortunately it is for medical reasons….however don’t think that I will return to KSA without getting a chance to meet and spoil my grandbaby!!

    It was a 16 hour flight from Riyadh to WDC (direct, non stop) and i had forgotten how cold WDC can get! But we are continuing on today where it should at least be a little warmer!

  276. Welcome to Washington, DC … let’s have lunch.

  277. I sure wish I could Susan but we fly out in a few hours.

  278. Maybe next time. Wish you both well on this trip

  279. Thank you Susan and it would be a pleasure to meet when logistics allow!

  280. So you want me to work on a light silk example, and when its finishe I’m going to have to read how happy you are not to use it???

    I don’t know….

    That’s not much of an incentive….

  281. i must be honest and acknowledge the abaya is not my favorite garment so therefore having a light silk style made by you will not only make wearing the abaya (when necessary) so much more palatable but I will be a walking advertisement for fitnah fashions (and for those who may be wondering what on earth I am referring to, I will not be a walking advertisement for fitnah but rather fitnah fashions is the name of aafke’s designer haute coutre label.)

  282. Okee, good one!
    I’ll make you one then…… What’s my deadline? when does it get too hot for the ”hello kitty” abaya?

  283. Remember to post photos of the process, the finished product, and the modelling both at home and on the streets of Riyadh! Fans of “Fitnah Fashion” are looking forward to this!

  284. It was actually getting to hot for the ‘Hello Kitty’ as I left Riyadh.

    And of course I will be proud to model the Fitnah Fashion ayaba when it is completed!

  285. Yes, Aafke, we are waiting …. do you have your business cards yet?

  286. Well I am not in favor of the Ayaba or even the Hijab for that matter (although the more chic versions are nice to see, not as a false symbol of modesty but as a symbol of culture) it is distressing to see that Westerners are less keen on respecting the culture.

    Just as it is sad to see Saudi Women in America not observe Saudi Dress codes (although a woman walking around in a sleeveless shirt is hardly immodest in my mind) while in America and cowardly observe them back them home it is distressing to see Foreigners snub Saudi Norms.

    It also makes it all the more difficult for Saudi’s to “push the envelope.”

    I am a conservative neanderthal, I am violently opposed to homosexuality, and I don’t want to see the day that Women run around with a mini skirt on in Makkah. But at the same time the thought that a woman’s arms or hair can excite a man are just silly. Muslim Men should be disciplined enough to not be tempted a completely naked woman (unrealistic especially for the single but it should be the idea).

    Well back to the point at hand, unfortunately in the Muslim Community everywhere we have a real deficient of those who are ready to make social change possible as well as carve a new and unique Muslim Society in the modern world. People either seek to mimic the West which alienates change, and when those who want to bring sincere and domestically produced change try to enact that change the arrogance of Westerners makes it easy to be attacked by traditionalists.

  287. Western arrogance is not always a bad thing. Our self confidence and determination has never waivered and we are scientifically, mathematically, technologically and financially more advanced than anyone else. (note I didnt say morally :P )

    Muslims have lost the greatness they once had and now focus on stupid details like abayas and who can memorise the koran more accurately.

    Am I proud to be Western? Damn straight!

  288. “But at the same time the thought that a woman’s arms or hair can excite a man are just silly. ”

    Have you read Suhair Hammad’s poem “Not Your Exotic”

  289. Speak for yourself Ryan, I am western and I believe that I am more morally advanced than plenty of people in the world, even (especially?) those who claim to be religious :-).

  290. I was just in Riyadh for the second time, last time was Nov. 06. I have always worn an abaya and head scarf. On our last night there, we were taken the old Dira Souk by a Saudi doctor (she is completely covered except for her eyes) her husband, an American Muslim who has lived there for years, and himself very traditional and traditionally dressed. He excused himself for prayers when the shops closed. I had forgotten my scarf and my abaya, I was dressed modestly, long tunic, loose pants. We were at the souk, having a great time visiting, when a matawa came up and told me to cover my head. My friend, the completely veiled saudi women, said to him, “she is leaving tonight, go away”. He sheepishly walked over to the other side of the street, and did not bother us again. Her husband returned and said he wished he had been there and would have really told him off. This is quite different than two years ago. Many western women wear the abaya but never cover their heads. Several other western women with me on another outing, dressed modestly, no abaya and had the scarf loose at their necks. I like my abaya , I think it’s pretty and it was a gift so I appreciate it. But things seem to be changing. Many girls of perhaps 12-13 were wearing abayas without head scarves. A reporter had an abaya, cowboy boots and a large brimmed hat.
    The Matawa also seem quite meek and easily intimidated by a strong Saudi woman.

  291. Lori,

    Thanks for your update. I found it very interesting as Diera is actually one of the places where I would readily don an abaya and carry a scarf. Reason I do that is because of its proximity to the Muttawa headquarters, so again for folks like me who prefer not to wear an abaya when possible, I found your experience very encouraging.

  292. HiI have found the discussion regarding abayahs interesting as I am moving to Saudi in a couple of weeks from the Uk. I am trying to buy an abayah as I wish to respect the local culture. Can anyone tell me where I can buy one in the Uk and what is an appropriate abayah there seems to be so many different ones. Also can I wear open toed shoes?
    Any advice much appreciated!

  293. dumb blonde, I can’t refer you to anywhere specific in the UK but I’m sure if you look online you’ll find some places. Bear in mind it is okay to arrive in KSA at the airport without one and acquire one shortlly after arrival. It is starting to get hot in KSA so you will likely want one that is lightweight now. And open toed shoes are fine.

  294. Too many comments I read only half. As a Saudi who lived the first half of my life in the US and now almost 30 I’m living in the UK, I don’t mind the abaya while there. It makes life easier when I don’t feel like getting dressed or doing my hair. When I read the blog I laughed until I realized you were American, b/c seriously a foreigner walking around without an abaya is not a big deal.BUT I do see it as arrogance. Any one who comes to SA are entering fully aware of the culture so by going against is disrespecting those who live there. This is a stand that should be the choice and only initiated from Saudi citizens not foreigners. I have issue with the women who go abroad and cover their face because THAT TOO is going against their norm. Even in Islam a Muslim should never allow them self to ‘stand out’ and wearing a blanket of black puts up more walls of misunderstand then necessary. I have never tried to convert people here to my religion or my conservative way of thought.
    As for the religious police I have never had a problem with them and I’m from Riyadh. They only bother those they think the came- they’re like dogs who smell fear, if they think they can they will. I was in Riyadh from ’91 to the end of last year so I went through the changes. My point is in the end every country has its own cultures and way of life, going to those places is a choice and a decision to walk in knowing full well what to expect and what is expected of you. Change is not a right of a foreigner of any countries they go to it should ONLY be made by the citizens who have that choice and right.

  295. @Amel – welcome and thank you for your comment. Yes…I think this particular post received the most comments ever. I do agree though that for any changes within Saudi Arabia it should be up to the citizens themselves, male or female, to bring those changes about.

  296. A great read!!! great comments too!!
    soooo many…and I think everything has been said by now!!
    Yes, it might come across as being arrogant, but you were VERY respectively covered…and I think in the end that is all that is required. And times are definitely
    a-changin’ … I’ve noticed, even in my short stay of 6+yrs so far.

  297. Amel–great points! :)
    British Bedu–you are heading toward veteran status! LOL :)

  298. @Britishbedu – yes, I think this has become one of the most infamous posts with all the comments and varying views on the topic.

  299. It is so interesting! May I use your photo for my students? I am planning to teach the culture of Saudi Arabia and your blog would be a wonderful start!

  300. @Sang – welcome! You are more than welcome to use photos (which I get from google images or deviantart.com) and posts for discussions with your students.

  301. Good for you! A few years ago I stopped wearing a headscarf, and started making a point of wearing snazzy abayas.

    I don’t completely agree that foreigners shouldn’t push for change. I am a permanent resident here- I am the mother of Saudi citizens, I feel an obligation to push where I feel I can. Besides, on this issue I do NOT respect the culture. And on many issues, especially because I am a woman, the culture does NOT respect me. So, that’s how it goes.

  302. Without abaya! And no jailtime! Good for you!!!!!!!

    I like different cultures and getting to know them, very much. But I don’t see why I should respect parts of a culture which are denigrating to women, racist, sexist, or just plain evil.
    Through the years I have come to the conclusion that people from Western countries have far too much respect for other peoples cultures and too little respect for their own.

    My own culture respects freedom of speech and equality for women and to me that is a much better culture as no freedom of speech and women as eternal minors and possessions of men.

    I agree that it should not be up to foreigners to be rude and push boundaries But neither should a foreigner have to take everything lying down. Especially not in their home countries. When travelling and staying somewhere short time one should ”do as the romans do”.

    To a certain degree. Because as much as a foreigner should have some respect for the country they are visiting, so should the visited country have some respect for the foreigners and their culture.

    And I think it’s because saudis consider themselves and their culture to be so very much above all other people that they have no respect at all for other peoples cultures.

  303. Thanks Sandy and Save the Women for your comments.

    One fact that does need to be taken into consideration for Saudi Arabia, particularly if married to a Saudi national, is that ones actions can also reflect and impact on the family too.

  304. I don’t worry too much about the reflection on the family. I am a dignified person, not doing anything wrong, and I am not going to surrender more of my human rights voluntarily by limiting myself even further than I can get away with!

    It is true in some families this would be a big concern, especially if the husband isn’t ok with it.

  305. Nice!! lol!
    I have 2 Emirati abayas that have a bit of decor on them (not over done though), basically just around the cuffs and neckline. Is it ok to wear such abayas in Saudia? I mean, everytime I see Saudi ones they are totally all black with no decor at all….Will I get wierd looks or should I just get some plain black abayas to be on the safe side? Thx =)

  306. @Tamz,

    You will see all kinds of abaya styles with and without decoration once in Saudi. My suggestion is that as long as you are not going to some remote area, your Emirati abaya will be fine!

  307. Oh ok thanx soooo much for clearing that up!! You are simply great =) Allah(swt) bless you always!

  308. @Tamz,

    You are quite welcome and thank YOU!

  309. Oh boy, the ABAYA!! Other than during my visit to an Aramco compound I didn’t see a single woman without an abaya in either Khobar, Dammam or Riyadh. Now I was only there a month so I suppose I just missed the ‘abayaless’ women!

    I wore an abaya when I went out but only once or twice did I cover my head. I was told that I didn’t have to wear an abaya all the time but I did so that I was not attracting too much attention. Friends of a friend were verbally attacked by a mutawa in Rashid Mall because hair was showing under the hijab. I don’t look Arab and the two times I saw mutawa they looked but did not approach me.
    One time my abaya was getting washed and my husband wanted us to go out to the market, I was advised to stay home until I could wear it. I must say I felt like I was in a prison. They are hot and it’s easy to trip. My husband was very unhappy to see me covered.
    As to decorated and embroidered abayas I saw many beautiful ones with colourful designs and embroidery. being worn. Mine was simple with a little black embroidery and some rhinestones on the sleeves and hijab (which I did wear around my neck just not on my head).
    Well, I entered the country without wearing an abaya and left the same way. Not one comment was made.

  310. Thanx Wendy =) That was very helpful and enlighting!!!
    My soon-to-be hubby couldnt care less whether or not I wear abaya or not. But due to the fact that I’m Latin and do look Arab, I wouldnt want those mutawas annoying either one of us! Besides, I am a Muslim but I dont go for the “all wrapped up” look. I like the more relaxed view of modest dress like in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, etc…
    But thanx again for the decorative abaya info as I was told (wrongfully I know now) that Emirati color splash type abayas were not allowed to be worn in KSA and you could be approached by the mutawa if you were wearing one. I was also told I have to wear closed-in shoes.
    hehehe, I know KSA is strict but the misinfo from some people really goes overboard!! =)

  311. @Wendy,

    I have to say that I did take a risk in going out in conservative Riyadh wearing an obvious Western coat instead of an abaya. I am sure it did help that I sported blond hair and blue eyes.

    @Tamz,

    You were also instructed to wear closed in shoes? la howla qota la billah!! You will quickly notice all the fashionable (and open) toes shoes so many women wear under their flowing abayas…and yes, this includes Saudi women too!

  312. hahaha yeah. Some Saudi female friends of mine also laughed at the closed in shoe bit!!! They said I can if I want but they dont……Ironically the people who gave that info are not Saudi and have not been there. That’s why I’m so thankful for blogs such as this =) Mashallah!

  313. @Tamz,

    I am so glad that my blog is helpful to you!

  314. hi i am gona do that and see for my self ……

  315. Before I say this, I just wanted to let you know that I wear hijab and abaya whenever I leave the house, but I don’t wear black on black. I wear colors and have (subtle) decorations on them. I think it is a tragedy however that women are forced to wear it in KSA. It is a requirement for a muslimah as the Prophet instructed a woman to go so far as to borrow one from a friend before leaving the house. But he didn’t say that the color should always be black. And if women are forced to wear it then they grow to resent it and either reject it entirely or forgo the benifits it can offer. Look at whats going on in Iran, some women walk around in incorrect hijab becuase they are forced to do it. If the government would leave them alone and just make sure they dress modestly then many would come to it on their own. As for forcing women to wear it, let alone non-muslimahs, I think that ruins the whole purpose. On a side note, the word used was jilbab, not abaya so, since a labcoat is an outer garment, so long as it was loose and buttoned I don’t see why it wouldn’t count for jilbab depending on what was worn underneath! Man needs to remember that we do not know better than Allah, follow his instructions and don’t embelish!!! (except of course when the embelishments are on clothing!!! ;) peace and love,
    Anan

  316. You are a very brave woman .Now you for sure if this was allowed legally nobody will say anything to you.But the problem is they are just bunch of idiots who are afraid to try this at least once a while. When I look to hospitals I can see that women can choose anything she wants to wear and no one will say anything to her .

  317. I like your blog, very informative, Thank you.

  318. i say good on the girls i am a scottish converted muslim living in saudi with a saudi husbend i dont really have a problem with abyah only thing dat bugs me is there not always practical and its too dame hot especialy when your preganat and am quite a out there sort of person colourful i may say i dont have the guts to go out with out abyah on i lead pretty much as ppl would say “a saudi life ” parts i think unfair wen men get away with everything and as a lady said before fabric dont stop men wondering and it leaves me wondering back to a couple of years ago when i 1st met my husbend before i was muslim and he was drunk on wiskey in a club all maners of saudi consevitism went out the window that night soo anybody who says there offended by them not wearing a abyah but still been conservitive need to get a grip and mind there own business the fact there not from saudi and dressing conservitive is alredy a sign of them trying to respect the culture soo cut dem sum slack its hard work been a non saudi trying to fit in and find ur place even other saudi girls i talk to dont wana wear it and i say bravo for having the guts my husbend would hit the roof but good on u girl and ever other lady who deairs to step foot outside with out abyah \ ( ” , ) /

  319. Below-knee coat? .. doesn’t count .. but brave nonetheless

  320. Ugh-as an American woman, i just can’t help but question the history and purpose of the abyah……no doubt, if I ever traveled to a country that required me to wear the garment…I would comply. That being said….don’t you women anger to the fact that you must cover for the purpose to thwart male sexual desire and longing. What does that say about your men? Can they not control themselves? Are they not given some sort of pass for the sheer nature of natural male testosterone levels thus “compelling” them to think or act in a sexual manner? It is disgusting to me that middle eastern women must cover up….to discourage male attention…..whilst men may dress as they please. Such an oppression.
    I believe in modesty….but the men who dictate how women must present themselves in middle eastern countries are oppressive at the least. A method of control. Degrading.
    Regardless of how you feel- a cultural form of modesty etc- you are still being forced to do so at the hand of men……that you know to be the truth.
    So sad in the 21st century.

  321. Assalamu Alikum Ladies and Sisters in Islam,
    This is an old post, but coming across it and reading such blatent disrtepect for ISLAM (NOT Arabia- I do not recognize the lastname of a tyrant family forced on the people and I am sick of this nationalism) I had to say something.

    The laws for modesty are decreed by Allah not yourselves, coming from the west, I know the fitna women play their part in. The Arabian way of life might be strict to some and you may want “freedom” but that comes at a price. I would rather live in a place where women and men are respectfully dressed than have my eyes exposed to the kind of open disgraceful acts I have to see when I go out. It makes my husband and I sick to our stomach. This does not mean people dont do things behind closed doors, but atleast you do not have to see this and if it were to come to light people would express outrage.

    I am regularly shocked our Muslims inferioty in choosing the satanic west for role models when we have a perfect example (SAWS). I would rather be like the rightous women of islam safe at home following the laws of Allah than be out searching for a so called freedom that leads only to the depths of hell (may Allah protect us all). My dear sisters, youre all beautiful, valued and if not by the men in your lives and society then know Allah gives justice. Fear Allah. obey His messenger and inshAllah we will be of those who are sucessful. When youre in Jannah wear as you see fit, while on earth being tested, dress for the part so you can pass through safely. These women do not respect us and we dont need it. I live in the west, I was one of them the rights they claim to have is an illusion, dont buy it. I love you all so much, I dont want any of us to be like them. Follow the way of the rightous women in Islam, keep your deen and abayas and wear it proud knowing men do not make your deen forced upon you, YOU force it upon yourself out of love. Any of you western ladies who has a problem with the advice Im giving my beloved sisters, Im letting you know in advance to come get some, you will never scare me into thinking youre free. You will never convince me that Muslim are oppressers, sure many of us are wrong but Islam is true and if you decide to accept it, then peace be upon you. If not then, may Allah keep your fitnah away from our brothers who struggle to refrain from glances.

    Never attempt such an act again sister, if you fear Allah and the last day you will research the wisdom on modesty in Islam and abide by it, so as to keep you safe for hell, keep others safe from you and cleanse society of the lures of lude behaviour/sex/nakedness.

    We never want to experience the kind of punishments the people of Lut (AS) experience, if we wish to remain safe from such chastiment, then we as Muslim sisters will not encourage sisters who disobey Allah.

    My love to you all.
    Wa Alikum wa salam
    Amina Labwatullah

  322. One more thing for those of you talking about the niqab in the west and how we feel about it. Its simple, you (west) invaded others countries with no probelms with their culture/faith then, messed them up and now when they show up on your shores with an open door policy you complain? If you dont want people to practice their faith then dont be two-faced and say so. These muslim countries are upfront with what they and wont put up with, dont be shocked if you ignore/disrespect it. Western governments are always hiding behind their “democracy” with is a lie by the way and their history shows the glowing past of such endevours as proof. When the west stop lying to its ethic citizens about their freedom, we will draw lines make Hirja, until then I will wear what I want and worship my Lord as per my rights as a western citizen.

    And the women talking about covering up for a mans sexual desire? Heres one for you.

    Dont you get angered undressing yourselves/being on display for the sexual desire of men? Because the former makes sense, the later startles me. I would much rather be a diamond covered by a thick glove like the precious stone I am than be the dung pile with swarming flies :P lol

    Men in your society have you brainwashed. If women in the west are free then theres no need for cosmetics, sex, ads with women that sell stuff to men etc, they should wear mens clothes untappered to their bodies just like men- but no you still want to be women. All this and still want to be a lady but act like vixens? How cute, I am angered you think so lowly of us when nuns are respected.

  323. Salam, Amina, I applaud, standing ovation for your comments; may Allah swt keep us safe and protect us all. Ameen, Actually I am glad you wrote that because all the while I defend my believes, there are no other who are brave enough to speak the truth.

    I have been saying the same things what you mentioned above, in various comments but believe, me, sister, they fall on deaf years. And when you correct their misconceptions, they still stick to their ignorance as if they did not learn anything. This is because they do not want to know the truth. Sounds familiar? Did Allah swt did not speak the Truth? Deaf, dumb, blind?

    We are the ambassadors of Islam.

    wa salaam
    Sarah

  324. Oh barf. “Satanic west”? really? The ignorance, racism and judgement here is astounding. What wonderful “ambassadors for Islam” you make.

  325. @amina- great write!
    i do think the westerner girl is brainwashed to be immodest or she feels she is not normal. she grows up with girl magazines and t.v. shows teaching her how to have the best sex with her boyfriend or how to get one. the girls who dont fall into this hall of shame have strong self esteem and definite ideas about themselves or a natural modest nature to them. islam is like a tribe for all muslims staring and shaming if you do wrong. that is why western girls who have been immodest or done things to feel ashamed about feel like they found something great when they are introduced to this great religion. but i dont say it is all perfect you will find shame in all religions and cultures, but the westerner is the dominate in this subject of loose life. also, you cant tell a loose girl anything, she is set in her ways if it is her calling.

  326. Clothes (or lack thereof) do not determine a person’s modesty; that is determined by their actions and cultural views of where they live determines how others perceive them. Just as guns don’t kill people- people do; it isn’t the clothes that determine modesty- people do.

    Miley Cyrus is used an example of the “immoral west”, which is ironic. Why? Because in the terrorist organization of Al-Qaeda or whatever they are called these days, there are women who are completely covered and may even have their eyes covered who have sex with multiple men daily in the name of their religion and cause. (And for the record, I don’t consider these terrorist Muslims, but it is an example of a fully covered woman who is also a slut.)

  327. many loose girls wear clothes that cover them fully but know how to remove them for there pleasures which makes her not too modest.

  328. West is certainly satanic – all signs are there, in fact the base is there which they spread/spreading all around. Most certainly dress sense shows modesty. If you are modest inside, you will show it outside. g said it write. Western girls are taught that to be available, to show skin, be bare, to be partying-going, to have boyfriends …are all the signs of a true person. These are so called freedom that they die for.

  329. Sarah you are almost the most ignorant person about the west I have ever seen.

  330. ALL those things happen in Islamic countries as well. They just pretnd they don’t and hide it.

  331. Sarah, There are girls and women who are as you describe but NOT ALL western women are like that. The vast majority are decent and modest. We speak out against those women and men who are too provocative in dress and speech. You may think all westerners are like this because you see the bad examples on TV and YouTube and the press plays them up, but plays them up as bad examples.

    This same bad behavior happens everywhere, whether you want to believe it or not. Humans behaving badly is normal human behavior. It is up to each of us to rise above such bad behavior.

  332. Sandy, don’t be too naïve. These things you see happening in other places are the toxic influences from the West. If you did not read, I said that they are spreading their influence. Of course they are happening because it is made to look like the thing to do. Some places they do not even pretend.

    Katcanfield, I certainly agree that not all are like that but most are and the movies, billboards, ads, films, magazines ….etc all make it look like a good thing.

  333. Sarah, they only look good if you are sheep and can’t think for yourself. ‘Sheeples’ are everywhere in the world.

  334. There’s nothing wrong with wearing sensible clothes or bikini’s or going around naked. Morality has nothing to do with what you wear, or what you don’t wear, it has to do with your thoughts and actions.
    If you behave moral, you are moral, whatever you wear, or don’t wear.

    What is immoral is making up and spreading lies.
    Being all puffed up about your own imagined ”superiority” is also a good start for immoral behavior, no ”Western influence” needed; you do it all by yourself.

    And for those who have such hatred and fear of the ”West”, I suggest you should stop using anything ”Western” to avoid pollution.
    Stuff like phones, I-phones, computers, cars, internet, medicines, doctors, vaccinations, printed books, western food, western preservation of food techniques, and all man-made materials, including polyester abayas sewn with western sewing machines.
    Go get some goats, weave your own fabric (not on a western invented loom) make your own tent, find a secluded spot in the desert and live out your miserable life in isolation.
    That way everybody will be much happier.

  335. It’s amazing how hypocritical some people can be. Blame the west while sitting on their computer. Spouting xenophobic comments. Apparently unaware of the number of western Muslims in the world, and decent westerners of any faith. Feeling comfortable slandering and backbiting a whole culture of women (many of whom are Muslim)-apparently ignorant of what Islam says about slandering women.

    Blaming others for their own culture’s fault because they have become weakened through ignorance, continuous in-fighting, and totally stagnated through dogmatic enforcement of medieval norms.

    I agree with your post Aafke. Feeling about the west as some do- they should stop being influenced by it, and go back to being self reliant.

  336. i dont think there is anything hypocritical about stating reality.it is what it is and a saudi would not stay married to his wife if she lives the life of what these western women comment about to justify loose living. saudi man will allow her to go without hijab but not sit in a room of men with a tank and shorts on. being the center of attention. something you will see as nothing in a western family reunion on a hot summer day. but you will find more saudi virgin girls than american ones, so go figure.
    and walking around naked. really. that comment just makes a person lose his whole integrity on this subject. if you are married to a saudi then you must be spiteful or something. anyone walking naked invites trouble for herself for the wrong reasons..sex. but its a girls calling. how she gets it is her business

  337. I’m sure there ARE more Saudi virgins. Not because they are inherently more virtuous but because if you are locked up and not allowed to communicate with half the worlds population you are less likely to have a heterosexual relationship. However, there is no real merit in being a virgin because you were locked up.

    Wearing shorts and a tank top at a family gather on a hot summer day-will not have you the center of attention. No one will even notice.

  338. Sandy, it is difficult to digest I know and I understand. Facing the truth needs guts, its hard. Calling names is not going to make the truth go away. Face it. Telling others not to use devices and such is the cheapest things anyone can say and lowest form of attack. It amuses me. Be real! If I should play the same game, I can say :What are you doing then sitting on Arab soil, eating her food, being close to haramain and supporting the satanic influences? Why are you even here if you love the naked “free” society? “Do you then believe in part of the truth and ignore the rest”. Take a stand.

    You always sound so remorseful as it someone picked you up by force and planted in a place where you don’t want to be. You sound so unhappy. I pray for your happiness.

    Aafke, don’t get me started. Thanks, btw, for all these wonderful gadgets and inventions. It just makes It easier for us to make you see the truth and un-blind you. You can count you count your blessings and realize who exactly bought the technology.

    There is no doubt about the western standard, only the blind cannot see that. There is no use defending the shameless people about their shameless behavior. And what’s more shameful is them denying that, and worshipping their shameless naked bodies and then thinking this shameful way of life is the best way to live. Shame on them.

  339. Actually I am very happy, thank you very much. I only sound that way sometimes on these kinds of forums because there are sooooo many women here soooooo disadvantaged they don’t have the freedom to say what is true. So I try to do it for them. Not like some women with good lives who lie to the outside world because as long as they are happy -and the reputation of KSA can be preserved- who cares about truth and those other suffering women?

    What am I doing here? Doing my best to help it out of Medieval times. That’s all. Trying to help when and where I can- by facing the truth.

    As for you take on the “west”. You are not shining a light on anything because you are unbelievably ignorant. That’s not name calling that’s just a fact. No one with any real knowledge of these things would find you believable.

    And you are hypocritical to denigrate the west so ignorantly while taking advantage of all the modern conveniences. Not sure why you find your hypocrisy amusing- but that’s fine with me.

  340. ” Doing my best to help it out of Medieval times.”, Hahahahaha – that’s hilarious! Good luck with that. So you solved all your issues back home and you are here to fix us now? And you are doing all this while “facing the truth” – hahaha, really funny.

    I am not shining any light because these are not new facts. And you can say anything you want and call anyone ignorant – its only your way of hiding behind facts thinking it will cover it up but its open. Its not backbiting because its all open. And no one has to believe me, they can make up their own mind. And what is “real knowledge” btw?

    What is it with “modern conveniences”, if you are true you should know that these devices are not belonging to you, neither is knowledge. They are all from the Creator and He can wipe it all away so do not be so smug. FYI, if it makes you happy, my laptop and cell are both from china. Again thanks for the technology (what part did u play in building these technologies, maybe after you are done with solving our issues, you can start on that). Also thanks for a good laugh.

  341. Sorry that was me Sarah, it went by some other name. Not sure how that happened.

  342. Thank you alpha majlis/Sarah.
    I do what I can- lol.

  343. Hope you succeed being superwoman and wish you many happiness. We all do what we can in the right way.

  344. Inshallah I succeed well enough already. Just curious Sarah. Have you actually ever been to Saudi?
    But why would you wish anything good for me since I am from a Satanic culture and spreading my Satanism?

  345. I live in Saudi. And why not wish good for my sister?

  346. Because I am Satanic and shameless. That’s what you said about an entire culture of people.

  347. Perhaps you have not seen my reply to katcanfield. There are some good but you can only see what is the general influence. The good ones from that culture should try to beat that.

  348. I am sorry for our group of soul-buddies, Nice you have found each other, but none of you can be believed for anything you write.

    I think we need explain some things you three do not understand:
    Morality.
    Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
    Morality has nothing to do with with drapery.

    Virginity
    Is not some sort of a ”holy state” (only for women of course) it simply means you haven’t had sex yet. Nobody is a better human for not having sex. Nobody (not even women) are worse humans for having had sex.
    Sex has nothing to do with morality.
    Having or not having sex is neither moral nor immoral.

    Hypocrisy.
    Is the state of falsely claiming to possess virtuous characteristics that one lacks. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.

    An example of hypocrisy:
    You cannot in one sentence proclaim you’re a ”precious stone”, ”a diamond in a glove” because you follow the ancient Jewish custom of veiling, and everybody (only women of course) who dresses sensibly is ” the dung pile with swarming flies” and consider yourself moral or even polite. In fact, this sounds like having a really nasty turn of mind. So one could imagine that what is hiding under all that drapery is not a diamond but a pile of dung.

    Another example:
    You cannot tell outright lies about all people living in the west, (I know they are lies, I have experienced lots of different parts of ”The West”) and then all kinds of lies about Saudi Arabia and still proclaim yourself an honest person.

    If you three are so clearly dishonest, proven liars, dishonorable, hypocritical, and have a nasty turn of mind, then why should anybody take anything you proclaim serious? You cannot be ambassadors for anything.

    Unless it is ”The Joy of Slander and Hypocrisy”.

  349. @Aafke,
    Part of the tradition of draping, I thought, referred to women covering their breasts unlike prostitutes of the time who would commonly leave one or both breasts showing….?

    To add to your comment: Virginity is just a sign of whether or not someone has had sex. To judge them by moral standards, one would have to know his/her reasons for having sex. And women being judged based on sex is hypocritical if men are not judged the same. I know in Christianity, at least, men are supposed to wait until marriage to have sex the same as women are. Women being judged for having had sex while men are not is cultural and not religious, particularly when religions say not to judge others for such things, but to let God/Allah do that.

  350. The draping was a bit of word fun, ”morality” ”drapery”. Get it? I was trying to be funny.

    What do you mean with cultures and religions not judging anybody for ”such things”??? Are you nuts? Have you no clue? Have even thought about it before you wrote that comment?
    Religions tell their adherents to jail, torture, torture to death, and murder people. For having unauthorized sex. It’s in all the magic books.

  351. saudi girls are not virgins because they are locked up they are because it is a shame to have sex before marriage plain and simple. any girl will agree with that and if given the opportunity to do it before marriage she wont. and im talking about the very most of saudi females not the divorced ones.thats an ify one. and pretty much why a female is sitting in the house is because she has no money to shop. other than that she is going to parties and family dinners and maybe dubai. sheesh just look at the traffic of people not just all men out there in the cars.
    and speaking for disadvantaged females for what? this is a private blog that nobody will know who she is unless she exposes herself. and i never in my life met a saudi a real saudi -not lebanese or other arab thats westernized- that wishes to live the loose life. ever. just know my comments are peaceful and only my own out look on this. my voice is a whisper. peace.

  352. g-you seem you might be a nice person but believe too much what you watch on TV. Everyone in the west isn’t “loose”. Also this is a pubilc blog where lots of people read to find out what happens in Saudi. Let me be clear. I think Saudi people are wonderful mostly. I have a lot of Saudi friends and family. BUt the rules are extremely unfair especially for women. And unfortunately some of those with good living conditions and mahrems lie to the world and tell the it isn’t very bad in Saudi. Well of course not if you have a good Mahrem. BUt what if you don’t? What if you need to work for money to eat? Not all women have a provider. And if you think Saudi women are more virtuous than other women – they are not. Some are very virtuous- some are not and everything in between just like all women everywhere- even in the west.

    Where do you think the babies in orphanages come from in Saudi Arabia? There have been articles in the Saudi press about dealing with children born out of wedlock here. People are people wherever you go and it is wrong to demonize all the west- when all the west isn’t doing things immorally.

  353. I am not trying to say the west is superior in this regard but who are you to look down so scornfully on a culture you don’t know well when this is happening in your own country?
    Though frankly- I think it’s less shameful for a culture to allow a single woman to keep her child and raise it- rather than getting rid of it because she’ll go to jail.

    http://www.arabnews.com/node/289461

    http://www.arabnews.com/node/341970

  354. Sad links Sandy. :(

    StrangeOne. I can’t leave it alone. You do realize that all this silly veiling and obsession with sex and not having sex has only one origin: male control over women and women’s sexuality and reproduction. Women as chattel, breeding stock, whose sexuality has to be kept under control.
    Nobody, whatever restrictive sect of Judaism they belong to, gives a sh*t about the boys and whom they have sex with, actually, men who *** lots of women are real men! But god beware if a woman has sex! Punishment, incarceration, torture and death! if she is raped it is her fault, for being there, for being a woman. Punishment for the woman who has sex, even if it is against her will. How despicable!

    Look at all the religious nutters in America: Nobody even talks about the tens of millions of medicare money being squandered on penis pumps and erection pills, because that is important, a man should be able to ”get it up”.
    But nationwide whining and fighting and claiming religious exemptions against women’s healthcare, safety and anti conception.

    Because that is what the Jewish war god Jahweh/God/Allah really hates, a woman in charge of her own body, a woman in charge of her own sexuality, a woman in charge of her own reproduction. A woman with rights.

  355. Im not born in the west ( whatver that happens to be ) I’m eastern by birth and western by choice of citizenship , but for everyone blaming about the toxic west, i have only one thing to say.

    Are you all idiots without a thought of your own. You constantly think the west is evil and yet ape it?? i mean really on one end you claim the prophet tells you EVERYTHING YOU need to know to lead a fabulous life , and then on the other hand yell and rant and rave that the west is evil and is creeping into your society. All your society needs to do is IGNORE and lo behold you’re all set . happy living the way you choose.

    BTW i also think you have no idea of what freedom means, why do you always sexualize freedom, dont you see freedom in anything else, freedom to go where we please, be happy, live how we want, freedom to enjoy nature , freedom to speak our mind !!!

    just as one covers themselfs in a jilbab if they love themselves , people here cover themselves in jeans and a t-shirt and love themself. or a swimsuit and love themself.

    Just like a skirt makes you think of bad evil sexy west, wearing a hijab while wading into the sea makes me think of lack of freedom. lo we’re even steven :-)

  356. @alphamajlis,

    your laptop and cell ph may be made in china but discovered elsewhere , nope not in saudi… guess again,, yep evil evil west..god what evil people discovering away…

    The First Laptop?
    Designed in 1979 by a Briton, William Moggridge, for Grid Systems Corporation, the Grid Compass was one fifth the weight of any model equivalent in performance and was used by NASA on the space shuttle program in the early 1980′s.

    cell phone ?
    Dr Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, is considered the inventor of the first portable handset

  357. MR, excellent comments.
    The history of the laptop, and the different models through it’s history, is a fascinating study. I was quite obsessed with it last year.

  358. thanks aafke, i get irritated at times, I live in a community which is very diverse, white, black, hispanic, indian, japenes, chinese, middleeastern etc., and it’s truly a wonderful group, we have fun in summer and block parties and all . no one brings religion into it, we all have our own and in the privacy of our homes. but i see and hear time and time again the smirks by devout ( or so they think) muslim women at the rest. No they dont do it to me – i’m usually in capris sometimes shorts but nothing daring :-) ( hangup from growing up in india – slowly gettin gover it) but they smile at the women and as soon as they are out of sight bitch about their loose character Cause they wear shorts and mini skirts !!!!!!
    I get mad when they constantly talk about their deen to me ( whatever that is) i have shut them up by telling them I’m not likely to ever get to islam, just because i believe in what i believe. they stopped but my experience and mine only is they are v v judgmental. and if indeed the prophet gave them excellent guidelines they are not doing too great a job of following it, and no this is not just the ladies in my community ,. this is what i see of most muslims i come across, the mor devout they claim to be the more nuts they come across as ..IMO.

    the rest of them hispanics, white, jewish, black,chinese, dont know what religionthey follow but they dont judge or talk about religion at all. just my 2 cents..

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