You’re in Saudi Arabia – Hurry up and Cover!

It never ceases to amaze me some of the “games” that are played out here on a regular daily basis.  I apologize in advance if this may sound a little sarcastic but I will share some observations now that I’ve been here a few years.  Yes, the majority of Saudi women are indeed conservative and very respectable.  They do not wish to appear uncovered or unveiled before an “unsanctioned” male relative.  So if they are visiting with another woman and have uncovered, they will quickly cover up putting on an abaya and niqab (in some cases the hijjab is not removed while among other women) or place an opaque lightweight blanket over themselves.  Many times I have had family members visiting and in mixed company (with male family members present who may not be viewed as “sanctioned” male relatives) the women will do this so they can participate in the conversations without compromising their values.

Then on the other hand you have the group of Saudi women (usually in the age 30 and below crowd) who make a big fuss when they hear an “unsanctioned” man is approaching and make a great display of grabbing their abayas or a sheet but somehow when the man comes in, the woman somehow always loses part of her cover.  I’ve learned this is part of a ritual among some women who are less conservative and perhaps being a little bit playful or flirting.  They are also the ones who will allow glimpses of themselves to be seen (uncovered) when men may be gathered in another room.  They will pretend they did not know the men were in the other room and gasp and giggle as they hurry past the doorway from where they are able to be briefly viewed by the men.

I may be wrong but I’ve come to view these tactics as “subtle Saudi flirting.”


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