Saudi Arabia: How to Wear Hijab

hijab 1

While there are many who will say the hijab (head cover) is required of muslim women, there are those who will say it is a choice.  The point of this post is oriented more towards an expat woman who has come to Saudi Arabia, whether as a dependent or to work herself, is non-Muslim and she is curious about the hijab.  Not only is she curious, but she is sensitive to the culture and customs of Saudi Arabia.  If she decides there are circumstances where it is appropriate for her to wear one herself, she wants to make sure she wears it right.

I learned myself as one who had never worn a hijab before that when an occasion was appropriate to wear one, it was hijab 2not a “graceful” or easy feat for me to put on a “Saudi style” hijab that looked seemly and not about to fall right off my head.  I tried various styles during this learning curve procedure.  Because I was not comfortable with the Saudi style which is long and flowing but covering the hair, I started instead with an  easy pull on hijab as illustrated in the photo.

However I was told in no uncertain terms that was not a suitable style of hijab for a respected woman married to a Saudi to wear.  The style was favored by too many housemaids or third-world female workers in the Kingdom.  Saudi females advised me the style was to conspicuous for a western to wear.

Okay, so I was back to square one again that I wanted to dress appropriately with hijab when it was warranted, feel comfortable that I wouldn’t disgrace myself or Saudi family by having it fall off yet remained unconfident in “wrapping and draping” a hijab that would stay in place, even if using a dozen pins to keep it in place.  At that particular time, I was presented with a “Kuwait hijab kuwaitistyle” as a gift.  As you can see by the photo, it is also a one piece, put on over-the-head type of hijjab but styled to more closely resemble a long draping hijab.  I felt it did look more elegant but I still had difficulties with it either falling beneath my eyes or shifting too far toward the upper part of the head revealing too much hair.

But all things come together with time and practice.  Now I am confident if I need to wear a hijab and know that I have multiple choices and style on how to wear one.

And for those who also are curious or learning how to wear a hijab gracefully and appropriately, this video is an excellent tutorial.

56 Responses

  1. I guess the pull on hijab is analagous to the clip on bow tie for men. Suitable for waiters but not proper for businessmen (my father wore a bow tie that he tied every day).

  2. That is an interesting and adept analogy, Jerry.

  3. Do I see right? Is it nesseccary to even blurr the features of a hairdresser’s doll????
    Very compulsive….

  4. Don’t worry your little head Aafke, I herewith confirm you have blurred vision.:D

  5. Just curious: there is a lot of pinning in that video. In the UAE it is big time 3eib if people can see a pin (3eib! your daboosa is showing! doesn’t that sound like something naughty!!!) as it is perceived as tacky. Is this the same in Saudi?

    I use visible pins because I am a foreigner, not married to a local, and can get away with it though.

  6. Boy oh boy ..the suitable style for a respected saudi I have sufferred with that one!

    I have worn hijab and then naqab all my life but till now, whenever we go out until we reach the destined place, you’ll see me struggling with my apparel.

    Thanks for the videos, Carol. I need to get those pins!

  7. Hmmm, so a western woman covering her hair, but still showing the brown or blonde front is not a respectable way to be the wife of a Saudi? Is it better to stay all uncovered instead and go as a typical expat woman? I usually wear mine like most expats. (which is not at all or covering 90% of my hair)

  8. I think women should staple the Niqab to their faces

  9. salam:)

    “However I was told in no uncertain terms that was not a suitable style of hijab for a respected woman married to a Saudi to wear. The style was favored by too many housemaids or third-world female workers in the Kingdom. ”

    hmmm… may i say one thing & i hope i don’t offend. Hajar was a maid. & she’s the one who pioneered the holiest city Mecca. There’s nothing undignified to being a maid. I know Saudis & westerners are probably genetically super beauties, while perhaps the maids have slanted eyes, low nose, flared nostrils & nothing like Haifa Wahbi.

    But honestly, I kinda feel offended. (^v^) I’m not a maid, but my grandma might’ve been one if she’s not a single mother rubber tapper. & if a saudi call her lower than the superbeauty western / saudi, I’d feel somewhat sad.

    Hagar, I thank Allah SWT you’re you & Sarah sueprbeauty is Sarah! Remember Saudis, your mother Hagar.

  10. MashAllah nice post. i love my hijab.

  11. ROFL @ her saying: “if you want to run a marathon and wear this look, I suppose you could”.

    No thanks, sweetheart.

    I really don’t know how women ever get used to sticking so many pins up around their head. I manage with only one safety pin (NO stick pins ever…OWWW!) and I am fine. And a question: if they are wearing head to toe black with full niqab to begin with, to throw a little spray of roses or Swarovski crystals around your face just looks silly to me. If you are trying your utmost to disappear altogether, then be 100% with the whole thing? Why the need for adornment? To express your individuality? What’s the point when you’re conforming yourself to such rigid and puritanical codes in the first place? Just my opinion.

  12. If I were to choose I would choose the style favoured by the maids.It looks better than the whole face covering.I like the Kuwait style as well.

  13. My short timein saudi never needed me to wear one and i usually just draped the dupatta of my salwar over my head. which is nothing at all when compared to this. Now i wonder why i didn’t learn to wear this? could have been fun, and not have stood out in a sea of hijab wearing women.
    oh well.
    I don’t recomend running a marathon in it though, if it’s hot…

  14. I want to say first that I love this article.

    It seems so easy to put on hijab but I learned later in the UAE that it is not—and ggee there are so many ways in which one can wear one.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a really nice abaya in Dubai, with a matching hijab The person who tailed my abaya showed me the proper way to put on the hijab and I thought I had down to a science—WRONG. I tried to redo it at home and it just did not come the same way.
    I love the way the women wear the hijabi n the Gulf, andthe styles too, so elegent and graceful.

    Great video and topic.

  15. Radha, I wouldn’t recommend walking about.. if it’s hot. And I take it it generally is in KSA.
    Didi you see? she put twolayers on that poor doll!

    Here in Holland you can still find the antique decorated pins used for pinning the lace headcovers down, (the Dutch style of hijab)

    Sabiwabi, but if you don’t really like to be pushed into non-entity, That’s the only option you have! If I were to be stuck in KSA I’d emroider the whole thing! I’d paint horses all over it! I’d write subversive lines in French on it with crystals!

  16. I like the haram style of hijab, tight around the face, neck free, large earrings showing, and lots of make-up.😈

    And I like this one

  17. Aafke, LOL, yeah, I would too. And I’d force YOU to embroider some punk rock, Hello Kitty’s on custom-made abayas for me.

    I haven’t forgotten about your tailoring skills! 😉

  18. When I was forced to wear hijab…I used one pin under my chin and forgot about it…looked old and tired people told me…but then I felt old and tired most of the time. And Ive never cared much for fashion so it was good enough for me.

    btw once again…Please convince me that THAT is required by God in order to get into heaven.

  19. What’s with the comments at the end of the video– “this is super pretty” etc. On what planet???

    Also, the crystals et al. and heavy eye makeup, just what the hell is going on here? “hey, guys, look at me and guess what’s underneath all this stuff??”

  20. Mariam, Oooh yeah! That’s the only good thing about a niqab: they show off one’s beautifully made up eyes to best advantage! hè, hè, hè!😈

    Didn’t like those crystals btw. It’s much better (and more intriguing) to have an amira style hijab with the part above your eyes embroidered in glittery crystals.

    But you have a point… Isn’t the whole point about hijab that you don’t look pretty? That you look instead boring and sour? Or old and fatigued? So as to show your inner beauty and personality?

  21. If only abayas were in white!
    I don’t care if it gets dirty.
    Just let them be white!

  22. Aafke
    You can wear a white abaya…there are in different colors here in Jeddah….however many Saudi women prefer black because it is more elegant and it shows their Saudi identity….
    My mother always wear a navy blue semi-coat abaya…my aunt wears a beige semi-coat abaya….and there colors like dark green and brown….of course in Riyadh this is not accepted at all….
    By the way, I don’t wear the hijab the way it is done in the video….and i never use pins to hold my hijab….

    And you are right, the whole point about hijab is to shift the focus from your outer beauty to your personality as a human being, not a female….However, some women who wear hijab and work in a coed workplace or in society that does not separate between men and women have an urge to appear beautiful …. they want to be pretty and elegant but they don’t want to give up hijab all together, so they invented the stylish hijab as you see….
    This stylish hijab is not a 100% Islamic hijab, but it is better than nothing…at least they will get the (thawab) reward for trying their best…..
    In Saudi Arabia, I feel the abaya is a blessing….I wear whatever I want in women’s gatherings while keeping my hijab in the presence of men…

    This post reminded of an American lady who got married to a cousin of mine….she came to Saudi expecting to see dark and ugly women covered in black all the time….but when she met us in a party that we made to welcome her, she was amazed….she said, “Why does everybody here look like Hollywood stars?”
    She found us very elegant and glimmering while we were just practicing our regular partying habits:)

  23. This post reminds of why I began to be fascinated by Saudi Arabia. When I first read about abayas and hijabs when I was younger I thought they sounded romantic. I remember thinking back then that it would be so cool to run around in this big cloak as if I were some medieval heroine. (Hey I was like 14 at the time. :P) I still find hijab pretty. The racism about you wearing the first type of hijab is sad though.

  24. I never have worn any kind of veil and do not believe in veiling, but there is something interesting I often notice. I know quite a few Muslim women who somehow look more attractive when they have draped their head in a black hijab – when they take off the veil they don’t look all that attractive! So much for covering one’s beauty from men by using the veil!

    I do find the Saudi women’s attitude towards the hijab worn by the third world women racist and offensive – they look down upon this style because it is associated with this group of women from the third world – and perhaps not Arab – it shows even an Islamic dress can acquire racist and degrading connotations in an Islamic society if it is associated with a social group they despise – which they are not supposed to do.

  25. Great topic!!! I learnt so much from the videos.Thank you Carol.

  26. As many can tell I am catching up on comments….I do want to say that no intent to offend was meant when writing the post and sharing the comments received on different hijab styles. I agree that it is kind of sad that certain styles may be viewed as unacceptable or have a stigma affiliated.

  27. I need to get ‘kitted out” before my visit to KSA. I didn’t realize it was going to be so difficult. I thought an abaya and large scarf covering my hair would suffice?? I want to blend in and not stick out.😦

  28. Any woman who can wear a hijab gracefully without any type of pins has my eternal respect! When I’ve worn one, particularly without pins, after the first 2 minutes of movement on my part I am having to readjust it! Unless in Makkah or a conservative function (ie, paying respects when someone has passed away), -when- I’ve worn the hijab I would also follow the style of having it loosely draped as illustrated in my flikr photos while doing an interview for Saudi tv. (this was when Lucky the kittenwas discovered.)

  29. @Wendy,

    As a westerner an abaya and large scarf is also appropriate.

    In fact when I am out with my head uncovered, I will always have a scarf tucked into my purse.

  30. I want to fit in and not be looked at as a tourist or whatever.:)

  31. Maha, Jeddah is so much better place to live! There at least a few freedoms here. I’ve heard there are even girls with their abaya’s open!
    And great embroideries.

    Wendy, as a westerner get a long coat, and make a trip to an abaya shop as you arrive. They are all over. And there are many choices.
    And eh, if you are tall and blonde, you will stand out. Always.

  32. We’ll be in Bahrain so I’ll get kitted out there. I am short and not blonde.😦

  33. I can’t help but full veiling always seems quite attractive to me…

    Imagine the possibillities! 😈
    You can hide weapons under the volume of your over-the-head-abaya, you can rob banks and jewellerystores, and the only description they could give would be a tall woman in a black abaya, black stockings , black gloves, black sheila, and black niqab with eye-veil….
    And the security camera’s would show only a black blob.
    And unlike masked robbers in America, as soon as you are back out with the loot (hidden underneath your huge over-the-head-abaya) you blend in and dissappear in the crowd of other black blobs, so no security camera can follow you to see where you went!

    Just imagine the ”artists impression” on the wanted poster! 😈

  34. @Aafke,

    Bank robbing would present problems if you hid the loot in your niqab/abaya. Imagine the scene it would make if a die pack blew up under the abaya? I guess sort of a twisted Marilyn Monroe scene comes to mind with blowing skirts and red die

  35. naaah, nobody would notice!

  36. @Aafke,

    I thought that the abaya would end up blowing out and becoming huge, then I remembered that there are some women who are really overweight and wear it to try and cover this fact instead of religious obligation.

  37. @aafke:

    As usual your bigotry against people who wish to wear what they wish. You have no substance in your comments and your comments always revolve around veil and abaya.
    When no one has any trouble with the Strip clubs, nude beaches, etc. the only trouble and issue they find is a women wishing to wear an abaya or veil.

    It is people like you who support right wing skin heads like Axel who killed a pregnant Hijabi Lady in Germany, or atleast they have the same mind set as you do. (

    Also YOUR SO CALLED LIBERAL MEDIA DID NOT COVER THIS news as it would have covered. Just imagine had a Muslim done this to a CHRISTIAN NUN, the whole world would have gone up in arms, but when a PREGNANT MUSLIM WOMEN GETS KILLED no one CARES.


  38. Atleast here in Saudi Arabia you don’t get killed or spat on for wearing Hijaab

  39. Again news on HIJAB

    Muslim (woman) Arrested Over Headscarf In Courtroom.

    I wonder whether this judge would have also arrested a CHRISTIAN NUN AND SENT HER TO JAIL for wearing her head scarf, this is the hypocricy that is present in most of the so called liberals and so called liberal commentators here.
    Just keep mum over it.

    And after some time this happened in Detroit Court also ordered MUSLIM WOMAN TO REMOVE HER HIJAAB.

  40. I have tried to wear the hijab and I felt like I was suffocating. I have never felt more dehumanized in my life.

  41. Welcome Rhonda and thanks for your comment. If you do not mind my asking, what made it feel so suffocating? I could relate to one feeling as if they were suffocating and dehumanized when veiling the face but i’m surprised to hear such in reference to the hijab.

  42. I felt the same way…and it was suffocating to me because it restricted my ability to move my head/jaw etc freely…as I had to pin the darn thing so tight just to keep it on..but maybe that was just me.

  43. Hijab is the beauty of women.

  44. Hijab is even in bible. Mother of jesus marry use to do hijab

  45. Our workplace tries to “require” us to cover our hair, saying that the prince of the region has dictated that we be brought to him if we’re “caught” here in the hospital w/out it. Now they want us to have our picture and bio on the website, but we’re “required” to cover our hair. I refuse to do it. Take me away, whatever. As a doctor I’m 2100% aware of exactly how bad this entire practice is for the neck and back. When I’ve worn anything on my head like a scarf I’ve gotten a headache almost immediately. Doesn’t help that I know exactly why. Where does this false rumor come from that the “law” of this country “requires” me to cover my hair? I am neither Muslim or Saudi, so there’s absolutely nothing that says I have to. So dislike ignorance. That being said.. I think it can be beautiful and were it not for the fact of people are trying to FORCE me to convert, I’d probably do it once in a while for fun. It probably would have occurred to me to do it, occasionally, out of respect as well. But telling me DO IT.. they’re outta their minds. no way no how. Thanks for this post Carol! It was EXACTLY what I came on here looking for today. I’d love to know exactly what the “law” DOES say, though…:)

  46. @Andrea,

    That is not a just situation if you are not apprised in advance if it is expected to cover the hair as part of the employment contract for a woman.. I can understand if it were for a position in Makkah or Madinah or perhaps in a more conservative and traditional area but again, an expat female should be advised in advance on what is required, kind of like a specific uniform.

    I’m glad that the post I had written helps you and please let me know how it goes for you at your workplace.

    Regards, Bedu

  47. what wrong with pins? people make life easier please?

  48. im really young but i wore or started wearing an hijab when i was in kindergarden I LIVE IN USA i know it was hard and i like i have so many friends that i want to get rid of i 12 now😀 i want to look REALLLY pretty in a hijab so im searching for buetiful ways for wearing a gift that allah and bibi fatima gave us all😀

  49. In the name of the Goddess from whom all life on Earth sprang.

    Allah gave you hair.
    And now you want to hide it?
    Isn’t that a bit ungrateful?

  50. salaam me am a Muslim girl i learn its my duty to tell you this aalima first time i wear hijjab is when i realism Allah favors coze Allah love us we must not be ungrateful to him Allah is telling us to wear hijjab not for his but for us it will increase in aware deed insha allah so for a Muslim it aware duty t fulfilled i think we must give good example people will talk look this is a Muslim look his wearing type so aware reputation is going to be wrong but for god sake we must wear it not for nobody me to i was pop but know a bit but i wear my hijaab like a little Muslim this my advice which i can give you hope u will do it you will recompense in paradise AMEEN!!!!!!!

  51. Why the heck does something meant to help have to turn to religious, hateful slanderous terms? This behavior is not Islamic nor is it Christian! There are many Expatriate women in KSA who veil out of respect for the culture and religious beliefs. Why does it have to be a news story when when a Muslim is asked to respect beliefs abroad? Expatriate women are NOT ALLOWED to practice their own religion in KSA and are often harassed when not veiled! Many of these women have make the conscious decision to reside in a country where this is often the preference and they RESPECT it by wearing a hijab and abaya. If a Muslim woman makes the conscious decision to go abroad they too then should respect the local customs! It has become illegal to put up a Christmas tree in many N.A. provinces and states because it is not politically correct and does not respect the religion of others who are offended!! It is not accepted any longer in many places to sing the national anthem in the classroom in the morning, or to recite the Christian Lord’s prayer for risk of ‘offending’ a non Christian who has willingly come to a primarily Christian country! Christians cannot practice their religion in their own land because of the rights of immigrants who come willingly to their home and then have the audacity to claim unfairness! I would like to see the same compromise in KSA! …not likely… It is one heck of a hypocrisy I think! If I go to your home I will respect your rules, and I would expect the same if you came to my home. Why cannot this be the way it is worldwide. If you do not like the custom somewhere, simply don’t visit there! If I don’t like the rules at your house I simply won’t visit, because I would rather that than to offend you by not respecting your rules. It is simple courtesy and it is sad to have to point it out, but God/Allah (The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, MOST COMPASSIONATE, MOST MERCIFUL) wishes for kind treatment of each other! AND BTW 20-30 years ago women were NOT VEILING here in KSA! It has become a man made law. NEED for God’s law not man made law!! Islam teaches, honesty, truthfulness, sincerity, charity, modesty, mercy, justness, chasteness, timidness, fidelity, compassion, and mercy. Sadly I am surrounded by shortcomings of many of these!

    This video and many like it are intended to help those who are trying to respect the customs and religion here in KSA, it -I am certain- was not intended to create such hatefulness and controversy!

  52. @Kulsum Fatima:)

    …and I forgot to thank American Bedu for the video!! Thank you:):)

  53. Is America too compromising? It is after all up to the respective countries what will or will not be tolerated or allowed. I’m just playing a bit of devil’s advocate here.

  54. […] · More women are turning away from the older style abayah that only leaves an opening for the eyes. This is regarded as more old-fashioned by young people, although older generations still view it as the proper way for women to dress. They still dress mostly in black and should always cover their heads at least with a hijab to show modesty. […]

  55. Love the styles very different, however it is way too high on the head like a camel hump and that isn’t the right way to wear a hijab. What is the purpose of the hijab? Why do we wear the hijab? We should all ask ourself do we need to style it as much as we do? Be simple wearing a hijab makes anyone look beautiful not how you wear it. JZK

  56. Will ! Nice Tips give in Blog For wearing Hijab. After, Reading Blog learn much more interesting facts and Things about the hijabs.

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