Recent Initiatives of Saudi Students

Let’s face it, reading and writing in a language which is not our first language can be a challenge.  This challenge is further compounded when the alphabet, letters and way of reading are also quite different from ones native language.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, Arabic is read and written from right to left unlike the Latin alphabets (English) which are read and written from left to right.  And of course the scripts of both languages are very different.  English has both capital and lower case letters.  Whereas in Arabic the primary distinction in writing the letters are when the letters are connected in script.  There are no lower or upper case letters in Arabic.  Therefore the majority of Saudis prefer to read and write in their native language.


I am very pleased to advise that I know of a group of Saudi male masters level students who have taken the initiative and formed a book club.  This is unusual of itself and furthermore the books they have chosen are in English.  The goals and objectives of this book club are to not only increase their proficiency of the English language, increase their knowledge and understanding of various books but to also promote dialogues among themselves and other non-students/non-Saudis who have been invited to participate.  They wish to encourage discussions on the books and gain a better awareness of cross-cultural communications and better understand differing cultures and customs.


The students remarked they may choose an Arabic book from time to time as their monthly book to be read.  For the participants who do not know Arabic or are not proficient enough to follow in Arabic, there are two directions of thought.  These individuals will either collaborate in tandem with one of the Saudi members who will help them follow and understand the book or they may alternatively read a similar book in English which would be discussed and compared during the monthly meeting.


Lastly, these students did their advance research on bookclubs in general and as a result learned of the International Readers Association.  Another sub-goal is to gain membership into this organization. (

  I applaud the initiatives of these students and wish them all the very best with their book club.

Saudi Women Who Wish to Marry a Foreigner

I have written previous posts about foreign women who wish to marry a Saudi man and the challenges that can occur as well as the extensive approval process required.  In case you were wondering, it works both ways.  A Saudi woman who wishes to have a foreign (non-Saudi spouse) faces her set of challenges as well, not least overcoming family prejudices and traditions to support such a marriage in the first place.


She must also seek and obtain approvals from various ministries.  In one case I learned of where a Saudi woman was marrying an Arab muslim man from another country.  Their culture, traditions and language were the same.  However they not only had to obtain multiple approvals but were also asked to undergo “psychological testing” too to ensure they were compatible.  Naturally a series of medical tests were required too.  Furthermore even after the marriage was approved, they were informed they would also likely be under routine surveillance from time to time.

  By comparison, the foreign woman marrying a Saudi man does not have to undergo either psychological testing or medical tests.  However, given the differences between a Western lifestyle and Eastern lifestyle typical of the Kingdom, it may not be a bad idea to enforce psychological testing and certification for foreign women who plan to marry a Saudi and live in the Kingdom! 

On the bright side there are categories of Saudi women for whom the approvals mentioned above are not required.  Women in these categories can marry a man of their choice from a country of their choice.  The categories of these Saudi women are as follows:  widowed, over 40 years of age, crippled and a doctor.  And these are individual categories, I am not stating that one poor Saudi woman must be over 40 years of age, widowed, crippled and a doctor by profession!


Exactly why these certain categories are exempt I do not know for sure but am happy to speculate.  Let’s take them one-by-one.  If a Saudi woman is a widow then obviously she has been intimate previously with another man.  This may not be palatable or acceptable to many Saudi men who insist on only marrying a virgin.  The widowed woman may also have a number of children which would need supported.  Perhaps the view is that a widowed Saudi woman who wishes to remarry has more options available if she is also willing to consider a husband who is not a Saudi national.


Over 40 years of age perhaps the view is that a woman is mature enough to know what she can or cannot settle for in a husband.  Additionally most Saudi men marry women much younger and therefore the options for a Saudi woman are again more limited as she might be viewed as a spinster.  The men of marriageable age are probably already married too limiting choices and options.


I’m sure it can be more difficult for a woman who is crippled to find a Saudi husband particularly when one factors in the traditional culture where it is the woman taking care of the house, the children and the husband.  Perhaps a non-Saudi man would be more compassionate and understanding?  This is certainly a very delicate issue.


I actually asked some Saudi men why a female Saudi doctor would fall into the “exempt” category and the responses were consistent.  All stated they would not marry a female Saudi doctor as she would work too long of hours, be on call and not be available for them.  They remained adamant in their views regardless of how successful, educated and intelligent a Saudi female doctor may be. 

  Now while I have identified exempt categories as well as in general the process a Saudi woman will go through in order to marry a non-Saudi male, there is also another important aspect that should be noted.  A Saudi woman may have approval and marry a non-Saudi husband but that does not necessarily translate that she is able to sponsor him and have him live with her in the Kingdom.  I am not aware of any cases where the Saudi woman has sponsored a visa for a non-Saudi husband.  Some Saudi women whom I do know with non-Saudi husbands have commuting marriages.  If they have not chosen to both live outside of the Kingdom she then must travel when it is possible outside of the Kingdom to have time with her husband.  Or in other cases, the non-Saudi spouse has been sponsored by a company to work and live in the Kingdom. 

Reflections from a Saudi Man with an American Wife

Reflections from A Saudi Man With an American Wife

First, thanks for your cooperation in responding to my questions which I’m sure in turn will also generate a lot of additional comments from readers of my blog.

To begin with, how, when and where did you meet your American wife?

Did you have a Saudi style courtship or a typical American courtship with dating?

I met my wife in 1982 about 3 years after I came to the US. We met through mutual friends at a party. Both of us were in other relationships at the time, however, we both enjoyed each other’s company and became best friends almost instantly and for almost a year. During the time we both worked out of our relationships and eventually started a courtship. It was amazing for both of us to discover after a long year that we were both hiding the fact of having mutual attraction from the first time we met. We both preferred not to act on it out of respect of the other’s situation. We had a typical American style relationship, dating for some time and then renting a place together.

How long did you know one another before broaching the topic of marriage?

We have known each for 5 years, 4 of those we were a couple. We both knew that we wanted to spend a lifetime together. The unfortunate part about Saudi/American relationships is that you cannot go through the romantic process of surprising your lady with an engagement request. There are so many complexities around cultural differences and legal issues that a lengthy discussion needs to be had to insure both sides are committed to make it work.

At what point in the relationship were families informed? And what was the initial reaction of your family and her family?

Both of our families knew early. I met her family even before we started dating and they liked me. My situation was much easier than most Saudi’s as my father, the only surviving parent at the time, is liberal and always allowed me to make my decisions. He knew that I was in a dating relationship and I informed him that I was planning on getting married a week after I made the decision. Of course I had some extended family members that were disappointed. Specifically, Aunts as they feel it is their duty to take over for my late mom and match me with a future bride. I would not term this as resistance as they all accepted my situation.

What kind of a wedding did you have? Was your wife Muslim prior to your marriage? Is she Muslim now?

My wife converted to Islam before our wedding. We had an Islamic wedding at the mosque with a few of my friends witnessing. This was to insure that we are in compliance with Saudi government requirements. A few months later we had an American style outdoor wedding and reception. We celebrate both anniversaries. Thus, I have double the chance of getting in trouble for forgetting an anniversary date than the average male.

You have chosen to make your home with your wife in the United States. Can you comment on the reasons for this choice.

It was a mutual decision that we made together. My wife was never opposed to going to Saudi, but we both wanted more than what Saudi offered. There are many reasons for our decision, which include:

Freedoms for women: We were not comfortable with the limitation of freedoms that women are subjected to in Saudi. Personally I did not want my wife and our daughter, which was born 1 year after our marriage, to be live under such conditions.

Career prospects: I make my living in a technology field and the US offered better prospects and job opportunities.

Ease of living: The US offers a much better life style with less complexity in many respects.

Complexities for acquiring approval by the authorities: We had an Islamic wedding which is a requirement for approval by the Saudi government. Although this could have been accomplished through application to the authority and consistent follow-up, I eventually decided the process is somewhat degrading to my rights as an individual to choose my partner and did not want to subject myself or my family to it.

Has your wife been to Saudi Arabia?

No. However, we have always had family visiting with us in the US in summer vacations and she met most of my family through those visits.

How has your family accepted an American wife?

Everyone in my family accepted my wife. Many members of the family were supportive even before I informed them of the decision. Of course there were a few that were not convinced that this was a good idea. However, I was an independent thinker all my life and they just put up a small resistance. Everyone accepted my decision shortly after.

Did they ever make any efforts to match you up with a Saudi woman?

My mom passed away when I was 12 and I have 4 aunts. Naturally each one of them thought it was her responsibility to be a match maker to find me a bride starting at the time I graduated from college. I’ve never believed in that method of finding a life partner, so I always just brushed aside the prospect by saying “Next year Ensha Allah”. Once I got married all of these attempts stopped as having multiple wives is not accepted in my family.

How long have you and your spouse been married?

21 years this month for our Islamic wedding and yes I remembered this time J

Did you require any special approvals for your marriage? And if so, were they easy or difficult to obtain?

No I never applied for Saudi approval.

What were some of the greatest challenges you and your spouse encountered due to having a bi-cultural marriage? How did you resolve those challenges?

We really do not have cultural issues of any significance. We have known each other for 5 years before marriage, so by that time we both were very familiar of any idiosyncrasies the other had.

What advise would you give to other Saudi men who may be thinking of marrying a Western woman?

Make sure that you have chosen a person that you love strongly enough to have the courage to face all the difficulties you may encounter starting with family resistance and ending with government bureaucracy. If you do not have that type of commitment, then you should reconsider as you may hurt your future wife and children.

And what about a Western woman who is involved with a Saudi man? What should she know? What questions should she ask of him?

First, you should make sure that your future husband has the commitment I described above. Second, realize that the great majority of Saudis will want to go back to Saudi Arabia. Study the country and the sacrifices that you need to make to live there. Speak to other western women who have been in a similar situation to get an idea of life in the country. Carol does a great job by providing an excellent resource through this blog, which will allow you to make the right connections.

Any final comments you would wish to make?

Mixed marriages are not much different than others. They require love, commitment and mutual sacrifice. What is unique is that there will be extraordinary external pressures from family or society. The partners should form a unity pact and an understanding on how to face those pressures.

Again, thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you, your wife and family all the very best.

Reflections from a Western Man with a Saudi Wife

I had the opportunity recently to engage in a dialogue with a western man who has a Saudi wife.  He was kind enough to agree to respond to some questions posed to him as well as allow me share his responses with you.


First, thanks for your cooperation in responding to my questions which I’m sure in turn will also generate a lot of additional comments from readers of my blog.


To begin with, how, when and where did you meet your Saudi wife?


  We met online, on a Muslim marriage site, late in the summer of 2002.


Did you have a Saudi style courtship or a typical American courtship with dating?


  I think it was something in the middle.  We talked on the phone and communicated via e-mail and IM for three months before we met.  We had a feeling there was something there.  The first IM we talked for 11 hours.  Yes, ELEVEN hours.  We then exchanged phone numbers and neither of us slept for almost three days.  We were on the phone the entire time.  When it came time to meet I traveled to her  and her parents house during Ramadan.  It was at that time we decided to get married after the family met me and approved.  We didn’t date, nothing like that.  I went back to the state that we lived in and we started to plan the marriage, keeping up on the phone, e-mails and IM.


How long did you know one another before broaching the topic of marriage?


  Our meeting was based on a desire to get married, so that was the basis of our contact.


At what point in the relationship were families informed?  And what was the initial reaction of your family and her family?


  Her family didn’t really care.  They had felt that she was such a mix of East and West and so much a woman of her own mind that she would work best with a Western guy.  Her mother had told her that a few years before we met but my wife dismissed it because of that fact that she didn’t know how she’d ever met a Western Muslim.


  My family didn’t mind either.  I was always a person who forged my own way and did my own thing.


What kind of a wedding did you have?  Were you Muslim prior to your marriage? 


  I was a Muslim before our marriage, her family wouldn’t have consented if I wasn’t.  I had converted a few years before in Europe.  We had a traditional Muslim wedding.  We had it at a venue with people of multiple faiths attending.  The sheikh gave a nice speech on the idea of marriage in Islam.  This was good to help the non Muslims attending what marriage in Islam was all about.  After the sheik we had music.  There was no dancing, but it was not segregated.


You have chosen to make your home with your wife in the United States.  Can you comment on the reasons for this choice.


  First of all it has do with the fact that marriage recognition is hard for Saudi women and non Saudi men.  As an electrical engineer I could get a good job, my sister in law has said she could find me a good position.  We worry about the educational prospects for our two young sons.  My step-daughter has high functioning autism and the special education system in Saudi is awful.  I guess it is also easier not having to worry about my wife’s ex husband and his family.


Have you been to Saudi Arabia? 


  Nope, Insha’Allah, I will go someday.


How has your family accepted a Saudi wife?  And did her family ever make any efforts to match her up with a Saudi man when they learned she was interested in a Western man?


  They are fine with it.  I think they might have been surprised had I taken the “normal” road and found an American wife.  Her family was fine as well.  They liked me, my mother in law and the sister in law who lives with her, love me and the feeling is mutual.


How long have you and your spouse been married? 


  Five years on January 10th of this year.


Did you require any special approvals for your marriage?  And if so, were they easy or difficult to obtain?


  We didn’t require anything for our Islamic marriage or our state marriage, only for the Saudi recognition, which has been a nightmare.


What were some of the greatest challenges you and your spouse encountered due to having a bi-cultural marriage?  How did you resolve those challenges?


  Ours was easier because she had lived here for a long time and understand much of where I was coming from, cultural references and the like.  I had traveled a lot in the Middle East and so was aware of a lot of the cultural aspects and cultural references.  I actually listen to more Arabic music than she does.


  I think our biggest problem, if you can call it that, is one of cleanliness.  Saudis from upper class/well off families are known for being very clean.  Much of this stems from a good reading of Islamic requirements, which are on the clean end. 


  I adopted much of what she did in regards to this because I felt it superior to the way we did it here in the USA and the way I had been raised.


  I guess the only other issue was food.  I eat a lot of things she had never even tried, like chicken wings; I use Bar B-Q sauce and stuff like that.  She tried most of it and has actually aquired a taste for some of the stuff I like. 


  What made things work with us is the openness we had to try and do new things.  Had either of us been resistant to new things I think it would have been an issue.


What advise would you give to other Western men who may be thinking of marrying a Saudi woman?


  Think about it.  A lot of things need to be considered, her family, her experience and expectations, her family and how they view the whole thing, where does she want to live, ect.  There would be a laundry list of things I would think the guy should find out about.


  I think for it to work the Saudi woman would have had to live abroad for a period of time, or the guy have lived in Saudi or the Middle East for awhile.  Without either of them having that sort of frame of reference for the other culture it would be hard to see how it would work.


And what about a Saudi woman who is involved with a Western man?  What should she know?  What questions should she ask of him?


  Of course religion is a huge issue.  If he isn’t Muslim don’t even bother.  That is just a practical issue.  She needs to find out what his expectations are after marriage.  If he is “Muslim” in name only that will make life hard when it comes to Ramadan, fasting, prayers and the like.


  She should think about how she present it to her family.  They might reject the guy right from the beginning if they started dating as “dating” is not an Islamic avenue for meeting your spouse, although it certainly happens.


  If she wants to live in Saudi she needs to make sure this would be okay with him and see if he has the skill set that would allow him to get a job there.


  Family might or might not be an issue.  Here in the West, particularly the USA, we are not as close as families in Saudi.  Does his family have an issue with it?  Does he mind large extended families and large family gatherings?


Any final comments you would wish to make?


  Not really.  I would do it all over again if I had the choice.  The only real problems that we have are related to the Saudi government.  The reactions of the people around us, whether positive or negative, do not affect us.


  I wish there were more of us out there and that we were more connected like some of the Westerners married to Saudi men online.  I am not aware of any other Western guy married to a Saudi who blogs.  Sad.


Again, thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions.  I wish you, your wife and family all the very best.


  Same to you Carol. 


Saudi Arabia: Don’t Walk in Blind

blindfolded woman

Since you are reading this post, hopefully it will not happen to you.  Obviously you have an interest in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or I doubt you would be reading my blog.  But if you know someone who is thinking of making the move to Saudi Arabia to work or for whatever reason, please encourage them to do as much research as possible beforehand. 


I believe most of us think that no one would come to a different country, culture, traditions, customs and religion without at least doing some background checks and reading, right?  The other day I discovered how wrong that premise can be.  I was in a lecture about culture and customs in the Kingdom.  Most of the other individuals were newly arrived to the Kingdom.  The lecturer asked how many in the audience had researched life in the Kingdom before arrival.  Out of about 35-40 individuals only five hands were raised of which one was my own.  The majority of individuals had accepted employment offers in the Kingdom for the opportunity to receive tax-free salaries and housing.  That was it, point blank and in their view all they really needed to know. 


Okay, I can accept how financial issues can drive and motivate many individuals but to allow those factors to take one to a place so vastly different without the least bit of research on the life?  It still astounds me.  So not surprisingly there were a number of individuals (women in this case) in the lecture who were devastated and having a difficult time on what they were learning was the reality of the life here.  They could not yet accept they were unable to drive, had to wear an abaya, could not meet members of the opposite sex and date, there were no clubs and the list went on.  Again, if any one of them had done two minutes of research and reading they would have quickly learned these facts of life in the Kingdom.


One woman in particular stood out.  She claimed that due to no one informing her of the need to have an abaya she was forced to remain in her apartment for a period of time until someone was kind enough to deliver an abaya to her.  This same individual also expressed frustration and that she felt she was purposely isolated from her family for those days as well because she did not know how to make a phone call.  Naturally I emphasize with the experience and feelings but also say “shame on you.”  She was not a child.  She was an adult who chose to travel to a foreign country without doing any research and perhaps setting too high of expectations on what an employer would or would not do.  I also say “shame on you” to the employment/recruitment agency that will engage individuals for positions in the Kingdom without providing any kind of good need to know information about the kind of culture and environment one is going into.


Here is a tip I wish to share with a new arrival.  Yes; when not knowing it can be frustrating to do something as make a simple phone call back home.  However the good news is there are multiple options to have that communication link.  First, one may wish to consider having a mobile from their home country with global roaming.  This may be the most costly option but for emergency and “sign of life” use it could be appropriate.  Secondly, many many of the shops in the Kingdom sell pre-paid phone cards.  These can be purchased from grocery stores, gift stores, book stores, computer stores, etc.  The shopkeepers will advise on whether a card can be used with a mobile or a landline.  The cards have clear instructions which are pretty universal to follow. 


Getting set up with email and internet may also be critical to other arrivals.  If you have arrived with a laptop in tow you can get fast access to the internet.  Have a taxi service take you to the nearest Mobily or Al Jawal shop and ask for their mobile connect kit.  This kit will provide instant access to the internet.  It will contain a device which looks very similar to a flash drive, connecting cables and a sim card.  The sim card is inserted inside of the flash drive, the cables are connected between the flash drive and the notebook.  Presto – instant mobile internet!  The connection may not be as fast as one would wish but it will allow send/receive emails and performing other functions via the internet.  One can purchase this kit using their passport as identification.


If you find that you have access to internet through an employer or elsewhere, check out which can also allow real-time communication with family members and friends.

  And again, I reinforce to anyone coming to the Kingdom or knowing someone who is thinking about coming to the Kingdom, stress the importance of doing the preliminary research to learn about where you are coming and what the realities of life on the ground are.  We all know that hidden surprises can be the worse kind so do what can be done to avoid them.

Mixed Marriages in Saudi Arabia

It seems that marriages between a foreign national and a Saudi citizen are always of interest and especially so when the couple is living in the Kingdom.  True, living and working and adjusting to life in the Kingdom for someone from another culture and lifestyle can be a major transition and even more so if a couple is newly married and beginning their married life in the Kingdom.  However mixed marriages in general are not really that rare and happen each and every day worldwide.


So why is there the special emphasis, interest and attention on mixed marriages to Saudi nationals?  Is it because a Saudi national is muslim and the other spouse may not be?  Is it because women cannot drive in the Kingdom and a fear that this may impact on the success of a marriage?  Is it because a Saudi national is an Arab where the language, customs and culture can be quite different from the spouse?  Is it because a Saudi national is an Arab muslim and if male may have up to four wives?


With the above questions in mind, what does this mean for a mixed marriage between a Saudi national and someone from another country?  To begin with, whether the foreign spouse is male or female, good communication and understanding always remain key – in any relationship.  In my view I believe there are more adjustments for the foreign female spouse married to a Saudi man rather than the foreign male who has a Saudi female as his wife.


If the foreign female spouse and Saudi husband choose to have their life in the Kingdom chances are she has decided to follow him to a country where she has no blood relatives of her own living or working.  As a result she will rely more on her husband than when living outside of Saudi Arabia.  She was probably able to drive beforehand, have more independence, a network of supporting friends and family and the ability to understand the language and the culture.  On moving to the Kingdom she may find herself feeling isolated, alone and perhaps in some circles viewed as someone “who stole a good Saudi man from a Saudi woman deserving of a husband.”  The Saudi husband needs to be not only aware that these issues can drastically impact on the wife’s state of mind and ability to adjust but he must also be proactive in supporting her and meeting her needs.


Due to the segregation in the Kingdom the husband and wife may not spend the same amount or quality of time together as couples who marry and live in the West.  The traditional Saudi wife will continue to spend a significant amount of time with her family and the traditional Saudi husband will continue to spend a lot of time with his family.  The traditional Saudi wife may not ask as much of her Saudi husband as she will continue to interact and have many activities with her own extended family.  Therefore a Saudi husband may not be prepared or fully aware of how much a foreign wife will rely upon him until they are in the Kingdom and the impact of the loss of independence and freedom starts to set in.  Hopefully, ideally, the husband will be compassionate, understanding and support his foreign wife.


It is also typical for a Saudi man who may have appeared very open and Westernized while living outside the Kingdom will revert back to a more traditional conservative Saudi on his return.  Family pride, honor and face-saving is important and he is unlikely to take any actions that may be viewed as questionable on him and by default, his extended family as well.  This may include insisting that his foreign wife wear a traditional hijjab or niqab even if she did not do so prior to the marriage.  While he may have worn blue jeans and other typical western dress while outside of the Kingdom he will revert to primarily wearing the traditional Saudi thobe.


The foreign male who has married a Saudi national will have his own set of challenges as well.  While approval for foreign marriages to Saudi nationals is never an easy process, from what I have learned, I believe it is even more difficult for the Saudi woman who has chosen a foreign spouse and especially if the man is from a Western country.  The foreign husband probably has more challenges to overcome in a sense of gaining approval and acceptance from the Saudi family than does the foreign woman who marries a Saudi male.


Speaking in general, the Saudi woman who has chosen to marry a non-Saudi male (and particularly from a Western country) is likely more open and from an open family.  Chances are if her husband is not a Saudi national it was unlikely that the marriage was arranged by families as is the tradition in the Kingdom.  She likely met her foreign husband while outside of the Kingdom or through mutual friends within the Kingdom.  But again, for the Saudi woman and foreign male to get to know one another well enough to lead to marriage indicates a large degree of open-mindedness as compared to traditional Saudi culture and customs.


The divorce rate in the Kingdom continues to escalate each year.  The reasons for divorce are varied.  Mixed marriages likely fall into the higher percentage of divorce rates.  I believe this can be attributed with a couple in a mixed marriage with a Saudi do not necessarily have their eyes fully open on the realities of the life, culture, customs and traditions of Saudi Arabia.  Most of us naturally will lead and follow the heart which can in turn lead to intense heartache and heartbreak later when the realities start to surface.  I’m not by any means discouraging a mixed marriage with a Saudi but advising anyone who is involved with a Saudi to ensure there is open clear communications as well as doing the necessary research and homework.  Don’t try and delude yourself in “I’ll change this later or I’ll change that after we are married.”  Chances are, after the marriage, there could very well be even more issues come up which one will have to question and work through.

  So in closing this post I won’t say that a mixed marriage between a Saudi national and a foreigner is necessarily unique but there are unique factors which need to be taken into consideration and addressed to having a successful relationship particularly if the couple choose to make their life in the Kingdom.  When one finds their life partner and you know that you are compatible, have similar values, goals and objectives in life, the ability to communicate, have fun together, enjoy each others company and can easily envision being with this partner in the good times and bad times and taking care of one another if ill, then it truly does not matter where one is from as the foundation for a successful and long-lasting relationship exists.

Why Do Some Women Veil and Wear Black Gloves in Saudi Arabia?

conservative woman


There are various levels of conservatism in the Kingdom and particularly among the women.  I have posted previously on the distinction of different types of head covering and veiling for women but due to the number of search terms about “niqab, veil, and why some women wear black gloves” I realize it may be prudent to do an updated post on this subject.

  FYI – yes; the platform which I use for hosting my blog provides me with various statistics to include google search terms used which led viewers to my blog.  Repetitive search terms are a useful tool for assisting me in ensuring that I continue to write about topics of interest to readers.


 To begin with, covering the head is a choice in the Kingdom for both muslim and non-muslim women.  However many muslim women will advise you it is not a choice but decreed of their religion.  Given that I know many muslim women from around the world who have chosen not to cover I believe that whether or not to cover is more of cultural mandate that specifically a religious mandate.


 How can they cover?  They can choose to wear a hijab which is basically a head scarf which covers the hair and leaves the face open to view. 

example of hijjab

 They can wear a niqab which covers the hair and the face with the exception of the eyes. 

 example of niqab

 Or a woman can choose to be fully veiled.  Usually in this case she will wear a niqab and then have a sheer black veil overtop that comes down and conceals her eyes from view.  However the material is sheer enough that she can continue to see without her eyes being exposed.


veiled muslim woman


 Before I continue on with the topic of covering and how much is covered, I am writing this in reference to when a woman is out publicly.  This does not apply when she is in the privacy of her own home and surrounded by immediate family (mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, uncle, aunt).  How much or how little she chooses to cover when within her own home is her decision. 

  The women who choose to cover more rather than less do so because they believe that no one unrelated to them has the right to see them.  This is comparable to protecting ones chastity and purity. 

 In addition to covering of the hair and the face, one may also see women who will wear black gloves as well.  Again, this goes back to the belief that no one unrelated has the right to see any part of a woman from not within the immediate family.  Therefore, the hands will be gloved as well so no skin is viewed.  And in case you were wondering, these same women who choose to wear the black gloves will also wear thick dark opaque socks and shoes so the ankles are not in view either. 


As I mentioned at the beginning, the muslim women who will choose to cover in this manner are usually among the more conservative.  A lot of these women will come from small rural areas, from the desert and be part of the old traditional beduion tribes.  Another segment of these women will be muslim converts from many different nationalities to include Americans and other Westerners.  It is not unusual for a muslim convert to take both the rules of Islam and suggestions very seriously to demonstrate their commitment to their chosen faith. 


The BBC also has an article from October 2006 which is also an interesting read in regards to Muslim women and their decisions on how much to cover and why: 


And Apologetics Index which is a site comprised of resources on world religions had the following which is an interesting read as well:


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