Saudi Arabia: Saudi Men – Taking the Body to the Extreme

I wrote an earlier post on how I believe in Saudi Arabia the perception and view (no pun intended) of the woman’s body is taken to the extreme.  A woman is naturally blessed with hips, waist and breast.  Yet in Saudi Arabia so much emotional ire is raised about a woman’s body and how the woman must not expose herself as men will not be able to control themselves or their carnal desires.

In fairness, and thanks to a suggestion from an American Bedu reader, I am now writing a post from the other side of the spectrum about the Saudi Man and taking his body to the extreme.  For example, while a Saudi woman is expected to cover from head to shoulders in her black heat-drawing abaya and wear a black hijjab to cover her head and possibly a niqab so that only her eyes are showing even if the temperature is 50 degrees C or 115 F, the man on the other hand, may wear a short sleeve t-shirt, shorts which fall to the knee and flip flops.

The man is certainly more comfortable and appropriately dressed for the intense temperature.  But what does he feel or think about the way he has dressed?  Does it ever occur to him that his choice of dress may make him a “woman magnet?”  Does he fear that maybe women might be unable to control their impulses by seeing a man who is choosing to expose skin?  Or does the man want to be noticed by women, even if he may already be married?

There are numerous gyms and fitness centers for men in Saudi Arabia.  Why do so many men choose to belong to these centers?  Is it because of vanity and a sense of “self” that being fit and having muscles makes them more attractive?  Or is it to be healthy, active and prolong life?  And come on, I want any males reading this to respond with the gut answer.  But for those who have not been to Saudi Arabia, I will try to paint the picture with my words.  Ironically many of the gyms and fitness centers are open.  They are open in the sense of having large windows with no curtains or blinds.  Usually treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines and other exercise equipment is positioned in front of these large windows.  Anyone passing by gets a “front row view” of the men who are working out in their exercise gear.  Anyone can see these men stand up and stretch their muscles with sweat across their brow.

However women are challenged to easily find fitness centers in the Kingdom.  The fitness centers for women will also either be totally enclosed by a gate and security guards and/or a windowless facility.  Some fitness centers for women had been closed down as there had been a governmental decree that any fitness facility for women had to be authorized and approved by the Ministry of Health.  Yet…that did not apply to the fitness centers and gyms for the men.  Why would that be, I wonder?

So it might seem that the body is taken to both sides of the spectrum in Saudi Arabia depending on whether male or female.  Moi n’cest pas?

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65 Responses

  1. Workout places in the US have the big windows and bikes or whatever in front of them as well.

    I hate the double standard. Some days I look back and wonder how in the heck II became Muslim. Obviously, these kinds of misogynistic things aren’t talked about in books about Islam by Muslims.

    I enjoy reading your blog. I never went to Saudi but I lived in Amman about 10 years ago. Some things are somewhat similar. Luckily in Jordan, women aren’t forced to cover.

  2. Thank you Carol for following up with the piece on the men. I look forward to the oncoming cat-fights debates from the commentators on the sister entry.

    But on this issue, I think the evidence that men have far-and-away fewer restrictions in how they dress. The example is clear that this double standard disproportionally affects women whilst men are free to be and dress as they wish. Add to that, whenever wearing street clothes like a pair of shorts and a wife-beater tank top… that shows off his finely toned ‘glamour muscles’ he worked on at the gym…no one questions his religious devotion or hurls accusations that his manner of dress outside the traditional thobe is indicative of sinfullness.

  3. @Firebrand: “Add to that, whenever wearing street clothes like a pair of shorts and a wife-beater tank top… that shows off his finely toned ‘glamour muscles’ he worked on at the gym…no one questions his religious devotion or hurls accusations that his manner of dress outside the traditional thobe is indicative of sinfullness.” [sic]

    Actually people do that. Men and their religious devotion are often questioned if they don’t wear a thobe.

    I’ve heard whispers from other women such as “he doesn’t wear a beard or a thobe”…as if to imply this is somehow bad or somehow makes him a less devout Muslim. And the opposite as well, “he grows a beard and shortens his thobe, masha Allah”. As if to say all is well with his character by these two actions alone.

    I’m sorry but I have known men who wore thobes and beards but had the darkest of hearts and were vile to their women.

    And speaking from a woman’s perspective…yes I have seen many, many handsome men that I absolutely MUST force myself to NOT stare at. Yes, hairy chest and legs aside, they too can be a sight to behold! :) And like I tell my husband, don the abayah for a day and tell me how you like it in this heat ! :)

  4. Carol
    for what is worth,a big portion of the women who go to gyms actually make sure that the place is completely private and they would tear the place down if they suspected the slightest breach of privacy… and ive witnessed many many times when gyms were shut down till further notice because a lady pulled out a Cell phone with a camera and took a pic while inside the gym.

    on the other hand,Men Gyms do have big windows,but -at least personally-i would never feel comfortable if where i work out is infront of a sidewalk where women keep passing by.

    my point is,i really doubt that if a gym in riyadh was opened for ladies and it had big windows with a view on the street,that it will have any profitable number of members…i.e. Women demand this set up in a gym.

    is it right or wrong? i wouldnt really say its right,but neither say its wrong…because till the mentality of the youth that is dominating saudi arabia at the moment change their perception of opposite gender,having a gym with females on big windows working out,will turn that street into a major sight seeing point in the city,and i say this even if the women were 250 pound each..not because they are pretty or not,but its because they are females,and its unusual for women to be so exposed for foreign eyes to see.

    but,i must add,that there is alot of things that are really different in jeddah,u see many Saudi young ladies who leave their abayas intentionally open while they walk,and with slim cut jeans and some belly exposed at times..ofcourse,they get alot of attention but this is why they do it anyway,but also when u go to big book stores like Jarir,you see many who are in the library in PJs and home slippers and having the abaya open and at the edge of the shoulders as if its a Bath robe..things are changing..not in a very visually explicit manner,but it is happening.

  5. There’s been a lot of fuss lately in Saudi, about men wearing “immoral trousers” ie. shorts. Even if they go below the knee!

  6. Exc. post – great pic! As a straight guy I may add that many, maybe most men in my country who love to build muscles, love showing them on CSD – ie. are gay. One of the funny results of this “no mingling of sexes”-rules is that it created a strange kind of paradise for homosexuals. (When I go with my wife on her shopping tours she will point to dozens – and I do not speak of men holding hands or exchanging kisses – part of the culture only, isn’t it … . And the Asian massage parlours – men only-… Arab news had an article in spring – no, no capital punishment!). The long thobe by the way is considered NOT to look sexy (they do not look much to ME, but then … ) , and as men had to work under the sun – they got the white ones.

  7. According to islam men, like women, should cover their private parts. They should be covered from the navel to the knee. There really aren’t that many men walking around in shorts – some youngsters maybe but generally they wear jeans or a thobe.

    Also, no-one has mentioned that obesity is a growing problem in Saudi too (even in kids). There are a lot of men who really look better fully dressed!

    But overall, as was discussed in the previous thread, there should be choice. Diversity of dress (in public at least) is not tolerated easily, especially in Riyadh. This is unique to Saudi as many other arab countries do not require women to cover by law, and is one of the many frustrating aspects of life there, especially for the younger generation.

  8. And even if both are covered in a modest way – white cotton versus black nylon and temps in the upper 40s, low 50s C…. Right there there is a Big problem!!!

  9. In my human opinion, we live in a world of many dimensions. Starting with the material and physically tangible and ending with something far beyond our human comprehension.. as in the meaning and the meaning behind the meaning etc.

    Although many things along time have lost their meaning in Islam it’s always important to remember the origins of the teachings. i.e. the why/what/when/where how?

    If i manage to not get lost in trivial frustrations and keep a clear and objective attitude, i can see that in the local religion which is the root of the existing social culture the male and female are treated equally in areas of their equality e.g. inner self and intentions while they are idiffrinciated in the things that make them different form each other e.g. breadwinning, maternity, strength and physical appearance and type of sex drive..

    I hope this opinion was worth mentioning.

  10. Can someone explain why a shorter thobe on a man relates to more religious devotion? I don’t understand it.

    Also, I’ve seen some very thin cotton thobes out there that leave nothing to the imagination as to what lies beneath it. I notice that some of the young men do like to get their thobes fitted properly so they enhance their frame and they can definitely lead the eye to wander that’s for sure.

  11. What many people fail to realise is that Islam does not force people to do anything. There’s a clear verse in the Qur’an which says: “There is no compulsion in religion” [2:256]. Therefore if you do not like it, do not do it; but there may be consequences. People who truly believe that Islam is right, that there is one God who created them they feel indebted to God for giving them their lives and are willing to do what is needed to please Him. The Qur’an also says: “Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you” [2:185].

    The second point is that no where in the scriptures of Islam does it say that women should wear abaya (the black dress). Islam says to wear modest clothing that is not revealing, figure hugging or a dress that is exclusive to the opposite gender. I agree that some women are forced to wear it by parents, but that is wrong because the Qur’an clearly says that there are no compulsions. Many religious Muslim women wear long skirts and tops just like many western women.

    But above all my heart goes to all readers that they not look at Muslims to learn what Islam is but look in books and the life of Prophet Muhammed.

  12. STacy,

    The Prophet Mohammed wore his thobes above the ankles, so wearing a thobe like that is imitating him/following his example which implies that a man is more religious.

  13. I am sorry I am new to your blog, I thought men in Saudi Arabia could only wear thobes in public. Very eye opening post.

  14. That’s a very striking photograph to go with this article. The image conveys so many things. Yeah, I definitely think a woman and a man, both, human beings should have a choice as much as they are able in how they dress and in the rest of their lives. Sometimes we are bound by our circumstances or our surroundings and cannot do whatever we want though if the opportunities are there, I think all humans being should have access to them. Thanks for sharing this. Peace…

  15. @ Stacy:
    In the olden days, men who were extremely rich used to wear really long thobes that would drag in the streets in a snobby self-appreciative manner.

    The prohpet mohammed PBUH asked his companions to humble themselves and leave things that made them feel superior to others as there was no difference in the eyes of god between rich and poor. So basically it started out as a way of saying “dont dress to to show off”. There are accounts of some of the prophets companions who asked him if it was ok to dress long thobes if it wasnt their intention to show off and he said its ok as long as your intentions are good.

    As in all things in Saudi(saddly) all things are either taken too literally or to the extremes. So they look at the saying of the prohpet and say “OK! it says short thobes!” and leave the meaning it had behind them.

    When they say short thobes they mean higher than the ankle but nowhere close to the knee. Normal people wear thobes that are at or sligtly below ankle length and are looked down upon by the self rightious short thobe dressers.

    @carol:
    Men are also looked down upon and sometimes haggled by the religious police for wearing tank tops or shorts even if below the knee. When I was younger I remmber they used to haggle people for wearing pants but thats changed.

  16. From what I have seen of the men living in The Land of Sand, the gym ain’t helping much! Far too many big bellies in this part of the world to attract my attention, shorts or not, eeewwwww.

  17. Were it up to me I would have all good looking men dressed only in a bejewelled Conan like bottom piece with fans so they can fan me whenever i am hot as well as peel my grapes… ergo Saudi men are slowly but surely getting to my ideal condition for men’s wear! But if they are fat they get to wear a sack like garment so I dont have to see it. ew.

  18. i hate the way women are looked upon. having a man protect you is nice, but not on the assumption that he is protecting you against men that dont, or cant control themselves. This post men working out is no big deal, the way it should be for women, or any living creature. The women swimming in her abaya is crazy and with the gloves on. At least a bathing suit came out!! The men are programmed to have all the privileges, what yeahgonna do after you install that in everyones daily lives and minds

  19. I think its total BS. It’s too damn hot to wear that kind of clothing in summer. I wouldn’t make it a day in Saudi before my big mouth would land me in jail. ;-)

  20. At the moment I don’t have much to contribute except to say that looking at the responses here and on the other, woman’s taking the body to the extreme it seems that all of us are far more passionate or maybe even judgmental about women and what they wear. 400+ responses there and barely anything here. This seems like it barely raised an eyebrow and the other one is still running hot and heavy!

    Interesting how this follows the attitudes of KSA and the difference between modesty in men and women. Sheesh! No wonder men get a pass. It doesn’t seem to get the same intense response that women’s modesty does despite the Qur’an saying it is for BOTH sexes equally.

  21. it’s not however enough that the private parts just be covered, though.

    the garment used to cover the private parts (which is from the navel to the knees in a man) should also ot press against them so that the shape becomes apparent.

    here’s a comment from nasiruddin al-albani which may surprise some of you.

    “It is surprising to find many young Muslims taking exception to ladies wearing tight clothes since they cling to their bodies, yet these young men are forgetting about themselves. There is no difference between a lady wearing tight clothes, which press against her body and a man wearing trousers, which also cling to his body. The buttock of both a man and a woman are part of the ‘awrah and both of them are the same. So it is compulsory for the youth to be warned about this predicament about which, many of them are blind, except for he whom Allah has guided, which by the example set, seems to be a few.” [Taken from one his tapes]

  22. As anti-Islam, all I can say is, there was once a Persia…once another world. Then the Muslims came.

    Holiness is not the reason for covering women, nor has the covering of women produced a holier Islam.

    These people are terribly crude and unevolved.

  23. I like how this dress business is interpreted in Turkey… I just got back from a beach weekend south of Izmir, and in this “Muslim country,” my Turkish 40-50-something friends were in their bikinis, *far* more comfortable than me in mine… and we were sharing the beaches with other bikinied women, and women swimming in one-pieces, and in their clothes, and in headscarves and even a burkini or two. You see just about anything on the beaches here. And it all seems to be okay.

    Vive la difference!

  24. They want to tempt us……………none of us are their wives or sisters you see…..mmmmmm,perhaps not.

  25. I believe “male gyms” are for “male play”, where a culture believes you are still a “man” as long as no one penetrates you during a sex escapade.

  26. @Oby, you made the exact point I was going for when I asked Carol to write about this. Maybe this is indicative of male privilege in Saudi, or maybe no one really has anything to say…but I’m leaning toward the former. Wonens bodies are far more politicized than the male form.

  27. I see the little girl in the picture and all I can think is “enjoy it while you can little one” I can’t even comment beyond that. It all makes me so angry. Gender politics, religion, corrupting the Koran, the bible aaarrrgh!! I could go mad.

    But, great blog and thought provoking post.

  28. or is it quran’?

  29. Well, this is not Hawaii for sure!! This picture actually reminds me of Jubail. I really don’t have a comment on the photo and issue at hand, however, this is my first visit to your blog, which I found quite by accident, and wanted to express my appreciation for your efforts. I lived in Riyadh from 1989 to 1995 with my husband and six children, traveled extensively in the country and they surrounding countries. It was a wonderful time where we explored dry seabeds looking for fossils and shark teeth; sought out petroglyphs; listened to concerts in the wadi and speculated on how to dive into the deep caves. It was also a time where friendships were bonded, with both expates and Saudi’s alike. I missed the hospitality of having tea with the Bedu after they rescued our vehicle from the sand, or clapping and singing along during a wedding celebration of a friend’s daughter. A short jaunt to Tamimi market would serve most of our family needs, but I loved the treks to Al Bathaa especially, with the blended smells of spice and sand. I don’t miss the summer heat, nor the sand storms, nor the ‘ladies only’ sitting areas but I miss laughing at camels being towed in pickups while the Bedu laughed at us picking up ‘petrified camel turd’ to use as decoration. (If you don’t know what that’s about, don’t ask, I can’t believe we did that then, or even WHY, but there is a joke in there somewhere?! But most importantly, I really enjoyed my Saudi friends who were always gracious, and worked hard at sharing cultural differences and similarities of our peoples. It was also the time of the Kuwait invasion, and the subsequent Gulf War, where one attempted to avoid the scuds exploding around us, or for some (most definitely not me), camping on roof tops to maximize their view while keeping away from falling debris. All these memories are etched on the memories of my mind, the good and the less so. They represent the accumulation of years of interactions and experiences. Please continue your efforts to share your experience of Saudi by offering a more informed, and personal view of the Middle East and its people as I do whenever the opportunity arises.

  30. In NYC with first floor window shop being so very expensive and tight- health clubs are on second floors or higher; or in many cases underground. So New Yorkers don’t get eye fulls when walking by these centers. In fact it took me a year to realize that the very business-like foyer of Equinox was actually a gym. The facility is on another floor and all the windows are tinted black- you can see out; but not in. Crunch is the same.

    But I wonder if the health fitness centers are really more for the younger set of males; and not the very portly older men. Can’t imagine some of the Saudi males I have seen on camera ever stepping into a gym- some you need to leave a few feet in circumference for swing space…that’s a lot of fat and cholesterol bouncing around.

    Would the Saudi Health Ministry make a campaign on a Nation on a Mission to get fit? Or is it considered vain by the population? And why, if the latter is the case?

  31. Their ancient mindset should have being put away ages ago! It’s very pitiful for the women community. I understood why they are covering up. I grow up in Muslim community. There are basically 2 types, the liberal and conservative. It’s sad to know most of leader belong to the latter one (appear to be holy-like). They usually prohibit females to do this or that but I’m shock to see guys drinking in club, entering brothel and even gamble. All this supposed to be prohibited for them.

    None of them being arrest, stop or criticized. But their weird cave-era mindset will happily apply on their female counterpart and continue to punish them. Very conservative which make them look a like a fool. With or without cover, rape still happened all the time and i heard Saudi runs prostitution activities at their best.

    Contradicting and hypocrite.

  32. Thank you all for the responses to this post and welcome to all of those who are newcomers to American Bedu.

    There is such a dichotomy of distinctions between perceptions between the male and female body and how it is viewed in Saudi Arabia.

  33. No man in Saudi wears shorts. Are you kidding me? Shorts are considered “Western” and actually, to be toally honest, they’re considered “gay” which the average Saudi man does not want to be considered.

    I challenge you to find verifiable photos of some shorts-wearing Saudi men.

    Waiting…

  34. @Cloud Ten,

    Visit Riyadh…. and you can see for yourself. (as well as other Saudi cities)

  35. @AB,

    I guess the whole question is the “3awra”. For men, seeing a woman’s body – the visual is much more arousing that a woman see a Saudi guys’ hairy back. Trust me on this one.

    It’s just not the same. Psychology and physiology does not work this way. But you know that, I’m sure. Are you saying that exposing a woman’s body, a-la-Western society makes her liberated? Come on, we know the intricacies involved in this paradox. I don’t have to explain it here.

  36. An estimated 100 Saudis are still being held at Guantanamo, some of them for more than four years. Shorts

  37. @Cloud Ten
    What exactly would be your standard of “verifiable”?? Please be specific.

    I imagine anyone who lives here has seen Saudi men in shorts. Western? Lets just say modern. Go into a mall they sell them everywhere as well. Western?? Can you say “automobile”, or “computer”, or “airplane” or “mobile”???- Saudi men have no issues using Western stuff at all.

  38. As has been discussed A LOT on the other thread. Yes, having the CHOICE to dress as a woman chooses a la west IS more liberated than being forced to wear fully covering clothes.

    And certainly- based on the behavior of MEN- it would seem the Western clothing is less of a turn on than staying all covered up.

    As for the original post- men’s clothing isn’t such a hot topic because they are allowed to choose what they wear. the only time you really start hearing about it is when they try to “control” it- as in trying to stop people from wearing shorts. Otherwise, men’s clothing is a non-issue- they wear what they want.

    It is sometimes amusing to see Saudi youth- not only wearing shorts but pulling them down low to show off their boxer shorts like some gansta wanna bees. Except of course, the “shabab” all have well ironed clothes.

  39. The writer of this blog is COMPLETELY ignorant.
    It is obviously clear that in the Quran it says that you don’t have to cover. Now of course I highly recommend it. And anyways, You can take off all the “heavy, hot and uncomfortable” black stuff at home. I’ve been Muslim ALL my life (My father is from Lebanon), living in america and I still choose to cover completely, and I probably have never been hotter than anyone else. Us woman are precious jews and should cover our privates instead of being easy teases.
    ( I don’t have anything against not covering up, But you really shouldn’t worry about the woman in saudi arabia unless you hear them complaining about it, which in that case they would need to work on knowing their religion.)

  40. Im not a man (thank you for that) so I cant say how they think or feel…but seriously…how do men feel …those that arent pervs or sex predators or of the group that just CANT control themselves…but still forced to live as if they are? I mean..basically every man is saying… I dont trust any other man around my women…and I dont trust my women around any man.

    Such a stressful life…never being able to trust…ANYONE…maybe not even yourself. sheesh.

    btw…I went into the sea ONCE with the abaya and hijab on…nearly drowned…of course I was saving my two daughters lives at the time…but I was well aware of the drag the garments made in the water…and how the hijab covered my face in the stuggle and virtually cut off my air…and how my legs got intwined and i couldnt kick very well to keep me from sinking…

    any woman that goes into water wearing all of that clothing…is asking for serious trouble…especially with the unpredictable tides.

  41. To all, why so much fuss on Saudi and Islam? Talking about CHOICE… Obviously, each one of us has our freedom and right to choose. I just couldn’t believe it that so many commentators here are actually having difficulty in differentiating between culture and religion. Has someone ever approached 90% of the population who are in abaya and asked their opinions and thoughts on wearing the abaya? See what they have to say! I feel it’s not fair to be judgemental Being a muslim myself and always proud to be a muslim woman, I never feel my life/freedom is at stake nor a disadvantage over the men. There are many Islamic believers all over the world and obviously they are all not confined to wearing abaya…Opinion is still an opinion but getting the facts right is vital. How could you determine that someone is not comfortable in what he/she’s wearing? It’s really subjective, isn’t it?Common! Don’t get mixed up with one’s way of life with your way of life. What matters are the respects and acceptance of the similarities and differences that the world has.

  42. is this post trying to say women should be allowed to wear whatever they can ?

    if yes then why France is not allowing women to veil?

    on the hand if majority of women living in Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any problem in covering themselves up then why anyone else? and that same majority doesn’t have any problem if man wear shorts in public

    (i am not a saudi but i live in KSA, and to be honest i found your article out of the context and your post is not highlighting the facts correctly)

    Kind Regards

  43. The situation of women in Saudi Arabia is truly abhorrent. They can’t drive, leave the house without a male relative, get a divorce, etc. They basically have no rights and are their husband’s and father’s chattel. As a man, I don’t think all men can’t control themselves to the extent that Sharia and Saudi Arabia believe. Women should have access to comfortable clothing or any attire that they want. Forcing someone to wear the hijab, niqab, or abaya is inhumane. That country will not be truly prosperous until it ends it gender apartheid.

  44. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Congrats on making front page. I don’t know much about Saudi Arabia, and I’m disinclined toward religions, but I would think that under all the socialization, Saudi men are like men everywhere. Keen on competing with each other on physique, physical prowess, wealth, ability to attract female gaze, etc. More intense among the younger men. We can’t escape it altogether.

    I think that’s what makes some Saudi men hit the gym. And of course, some are gay, like they are everywhere.

  45. I was very excited about going in the Dead Sea for the first time. I went with my husband and eldest child, who watched me as I got to (watery ) grips with the floating dynamics.
    Unfortunately there were other people in the water very close to me. They were men. Their wives were sitting at the edge of the water watching their husbands watching my every move in my bikini.
    It was humiliating in the extreme, and I found myself enraged on behalf of the observing women.

  46. That was a very good article. I write about male fashion and you’ve opened my eyes to a very different perspective men have about their bodies and self-image. Congrats!

  47. @zoe
    This blog is about Saudi, Bedu’s experiences, questions, thoughts- that is what this blog is about.

  48. @theravenousbear
    “The writer of this blog is COMPLETELY ignorant… ”

    -Let not a people deride another people…nor let women deride women…neither defame one another, nor call another by nicknames…shun much suspicion..and spy not, nor backbite one another.” (49:11,12)

    Adab in someone’s house goes a long way.

  49. @theravenousbear
    This blog is about Saudi. In Saudi you were black. And you are forced to do so.

    And plenty of us here complain about it- and plenty of us know our religion just fine- and while you are free to disagree you are not qualified to judge us.

  50. I do not think that it is an actual picture. It must have been photoshoped. The women’s arm/hand looks like one from a mannequin. It does not look natural. And the visible parts under the water is not black as the abaya. It is brown. Even if that is reflection, it cannot be brown. This image has been on then net before elsewhere and people have mentioned that it maybe be fake. So its not just my opinion. Some have suggested that it is so sweet and romantic.

    If a woman feels so much like going in the water, why not go somewhere more private.

    By the way, I feel very very comfortable in my abaya. I feel more free in it. (irony!)

  51. @Sarah MD
    I agree that the hand looks photoshopped. But I have seen women swimming in their abayas. Not proper swimming of course. But going in the water much like this photo.

  52. @ Sandy,

    1. “This blog is about Saudi. In Saudi you were black. And you are forced to do so.”

    Do I smell racism here in your statement?

    “And plenty of us here complain about it- and plenty of us know our religion just fine- and while you are free to disagree you are not qualified to judge us.”

    I think you meant this to everyone in this blog including yourself I hope. Thus, nobody is qualified to judge of “what is good for us..is good for others.” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So what is good/approriate in our culture might not be so in others.

    As to Bedu’s, yes I do agree there’s nothing wrong to express one’s opinion as long as it is within the boundaries where respects and ethical issues are addressed. AB needs to be aware also that readers come from various parts of the world and each one of us carries different and various kinds of prior knowledge, hence reading what he has written may open to vast interpretations (pos+/neg-) based on what paradigms are we following- as I said earlier in my post, “getting the facts right is vital.” It would be best to express thoughts at the same time seeking understading by approaching the community in living.

    I’m a Muslim but living a Non-muslim countries for more than 3 years. Just like AB, I sometimes have my own perceptionsand ??? towards the people in the country where I live in now i.e. why people like to drink till they get drunk; why do they like to choose red, black, grey and white most of the time for their dress/clothing; why are they so much into race? Why are the kids calling their parents using the first name, isn’t that rude? etc…. However, I am fully aware of the cultural differences, I could tolerate and respect their way of life as it is. All I did was getting to know the community by socializing with them; not just observing. When one’s doing a ‘research’ and trying to understand, observation alone is not enough.

    Anyway, again I would emphasize “What matters are the respects and acceptance of the similarities and differences that the world has.”

  53. carol , I didnot know men in saudi arabia wear shorts , very interesting. in Iran you will not find a man with shorts in the streets. seems we have more equality in Iran.

  54. @ Zoe
    I meant in Saudi you WEAR black. Sorry. I was replying to Ravenousbear who seemed to indicate complaining about wearing black was a non-issue. Well its about 1000 degrees outside today, and I didn’t like wearing black. That is my opinion. And if you like to wear black in this sort of weather- good for you. I wish I had more of a choice.

    I don’t see any racism in that.

  55. @ Zoe
    I would also say that there are some things that are universally better for people in spite of their culture. Freedom, human rights etc.

  56. @Sandy, thank you for correcting that…as I first read in your statement …’were black’…Oohhh…it’s a strictly no, no! Even the word ‘the whites’ to refer to a group of people isn’t appropriate in the country where multicultural and equality are emphasized (this is what I love most about the country I’m living in – multiculturality+equality).

  57. @Sandy

    When I use the word ‘culture’ it doesn’t mean culture per se as in ‘custom n tradition’ only. Culture is a way of life which emcompasses of language, beliefs, ideas, traditions, practices, etc….which are accepted by a society where the culture belongs.

  58. @Zoe. Definately a no-no! Your probably not the only one that caught it.

  59. [...] The (double) standards of dress here were written about in this article, followed by this article. [...]

  60. As a female, I have mixed feelings about separate workout facilities for women. As I am in a western country, I prefer to dress in “typical” workout clothes that I had already purchased (i.e. t-shirts and mid-thigh to knee length shorts that dry quickly during a workout). These are body-hugging as I am more comfortable in close-fitting garments because I feel like it is easier to move in them. That said, up until recently, I haven’t had a problem with going to work out in mixed gyms. However, I was harassed last September by a male working out in the gym. This had never happened to me before, and it was a little bothersome. After this, I quit going regularly for a while. I think part of the issue is cultural. At my current gym, most of the women wear looser workout clothes. At my previous gym, what I wear to workout would be more common.

    However, I am still not sure if I was harassed because of what I wore or because of my personality as I have had another bad experience with a now ex-friend of mine who I dressed relatively modestly around. I know in the US, there are a chain of women-only gyms because some women feel more comfortable working out around other women. I wonder if this type of behavior, in addition to the cultural and religious views of men in women in Saudi Arabia, play a part in the differences of level of security between male and female gyms?

    Based on my experiences lately, I do not believe it makes a difference what women wear- men will still be interested in women sexually. It seems to me, in Western societies at least, that women care more about what other women wear than men do.

    As for men’s dress, I would imagine comfort and appearance has a lot to do with it. I would expect that the exact reasons vary from person to person like it would in any other country. Men, any more thoughts on this?

    As for women wearing the abaya, my mother once told me something about the color black helping to circulate the air better because of how the lightwaves bounce off of the color? I’m no physicist, so I wouldn’t know. If anyone has any information about how color of fabric affects the insulation and movement of heat around a given fabric would be very interesting. I know that black is supposed to absorb the heat from the sunlight more, but I wonder if there is more to it than that?

    When it comes to nylon vs. cotton, that could possibly make a difference in the heat as the two fibers react differently to pulling moisture (i.e. sweat) and heat away from the body. The shape of the fiber and finishes on the fabric also make a difference. I am curious if fiber technology such as coolmax, etc. that are used in athletic wear have ever been used to make a more comfortable abaya?

    I think in a hot environment while outside, I would prefer something that is loose-fitting, comfortable, and covers the body more fully so I don’t get sunburned and the air is able to circulate better around the body. Yes, shorts and a tank top may also be comfortable and allowable in many countries, but that is not something that would protect well against getting sunburned. My point being, I can see some practicality in wearing the abaya in certain climates, religion and cultural views aside. As I don’t have any experience with this, I can only base my opinion off of what I know of comfort, fashion, and experiences of others.

  61. @Zoe: Having lived in Western countries all my life, I am still at a loss for why people like to get drunk all the time. But then again, I’ve never been drunk myself, so I wouldn’t know. :P Kids calling parents by their first name is more of an individual family thing as far as I’m aware? As for color of dress, I don’t know. The reason for the popularity of certain colors of dress vary from place to place. I know in California, these are popular colors because of the punk and rockabilly influences. I think the questions of “race” (in the United States) are more related to curiosity and trying to get an idea of what the other person is like. I do not personally believe, however, that one’s “racial” background can truly represent a person’s ethnicity and cultural influences. At least, not in the U.S where cultures are often mixed, ethnicities are intertwined, and moving between states is common. I hope this answered your questions more than confused you!

  62. It has to be said. Saudi Arabia and other countries like it are insane. Like absolutely bonkers, and frankly hypocrites. I keep coming across stories such as “my daughter deserved to die for falling in love” and such.They give us muslims a BAD name. And they do so by being BAD muslims. They judge others and force their extreme laws for which the retribution of breaking them includes some extremely unislamic punishments. We are taught to respect women. Allah did not give us permission to take lives for not wearing hijabs or whatever else, as is free will we are given on this planet. Let God judge when the time comes, for it is not your place to do so in his stead. Don’t be so arrogant to believe it is your right. That is all.

  63. lol
    Men are stronger than women generally!

    I’ll say MY opinion..

    If a woman sees a man and likes how he looks she can do nothing but keeping that to herself!
    ( she can only talk about that secretly with girls only ) and outside KSA she may tell him that she liked him but she can’t force that or force take him or something because she’s weaker than doing anything more than talking ( if she would talk )

    So women’s love is either silent or quiet but men’s love can be dangerous even if the girl doesn’t love back!

    Also, a rapist for example is much worse than a murderer

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