Do Saudi Women Like to Swim?


Yes, Saudi women do like to swim!  If a family does not have their own private swimming pool, there are public pools or estrahas one can rent which include a swimming pool on the premise.  Most compounds have swimming pools and some of the apartment buildings may have a pool as well. 

 Now in the case when one does not have the use of a private pool and must go to a public pool, like most places in the Kingdom, there will be special timings for men only and special timings for women and young children.  It is also worth mentioning that some of the gyms or women’s spas will have private pools for women only (no children permitted). 

 If you are a family and wish to swim together then you must have a private pool or rent an estraha with a pool.

 And yes, there are special swimsuits available for the muslim women.  Even when it comes to swimwear, it is expected that a woman would wear clothing that is modest and covers the body.  Most “muslim swimsuits” are similar to wet suits which will cover one from neck to toe.


  However I will add that while one may be covered, naturally the fabric, which I believe is mainly lycra, is fitted to the body.  But again, since the Saudi woman is typically viewed in her swimgear by closest family or women, it does not really matter whether the swimsuit is fitted or not.

 Above being said, just like anywhere in the world, while there are “muslim swimsuits” a Saudi woman will wear whatever type and style of swimsuit that appeals to her. If one is not aware though of what muslim swimwear may look like or where to find it, the following links are helpful:

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35 Responses

  1. Would a women be allowed to wear this at the beach?

  2. Absolutely!

  3. While I never questioned whether Saudi or any women like to swim, I must point out that the idea of an Islamic bathing suit is somewhat of an oxymoron. I suppose women in the days of the Prophet had no opportunity to swim, and therefore the subject was not addressed specifically. Now, however, swimming suits must somehow “fit in” to the Islamic code of dress.

    I’m sorry, but there’s no way. Separate pools and separate days work fine, but the Islamic swimming suit is a cover-up. It’s a cover up of the inabiliity to reconcile modern activities with an inflexible, ancient way of dressing.

    The spirit of modesty can be observed in any culture and any century, without having to encase a woman’s body in materials that accentuate, and draw attention to the fact that she is woman.

  4. Carol,

    I really like the ahiida website. While they are quite expensive, I’m seriously concidering purchasing one. Thanks for sharing!
    Also, just my opinion, I think that no matter the material, a womans body will be some what “accentuated” due to the clothing becoming wet and clingy. However,personally, I find the ones on the sites very modest. : )

  5. Even if a family has a pool, what percentage of saudi families do you think have multiple extended family sharing the same facility? That is to say, is a woman’s brother-in-law likely to be passing through frequently enough that would prevent the women from enjoying the pool in private? I guess I’m just trying to get my head around the set of housing when family is very near.

  6. The places I have been with pools and when swimming is in process do have very strict segregation when the women are swimming. There’s like an “unwritten” rule that a male will not go near the women’s swim area.

    For example, I am in a pretty typical Saudi villa. We have a very large and lovely courtyard in the center of our house (picture a D shape and the courtyard is inside the “D” with rooms all around. Although within the “D” is also a natural partition/barrier which if segregation is practiced, allows for men and women to both enjoy the courtyard without fear of being seen. Some swimming areas are also set up in a similar way.

  7. Do women swim in the ocean?

  8. OOoOooOOO the Bodykini is possibly the nicest one I’ve seen.

    Now I’m going to have to invest!

  9. Your swimsuits are much nicer as the ones I have in my memory Bedu!

    Marahm; I agree with your post.

  10. Many Saudis that want to swim either join the ‘Saudi’ swimming clubs where the pools are segregated, or…if they have ‘wasta’ some join the internationals pools.

    Our beach is mixed, but during the week, it’s empty, so women can swim without anyone bothering them

  11. Carol,

    I really like the two suits in the first pic. Do you know where they might be found? Thanks!

  12. Why? Do the religious police check out the proper attire?

  13. nearlynormalized: Some women just really want to cover. And that doesn’t have to mean they are scared or supressed or anything.

    The religious police wouldn’t like even these. And they don’t like anything that’s fun anyway.

    I like the pink one. It would stop me from getting sunburned. But I think I’ll stick with my current bathingsuit.

  14. Yes; Some Saudi women do enjoy swimming in the ocean. One thing I forgot to mention is that for those who are lucky enough to live near the sea, there are indeed beaches. Some of the beaches are private but if you are a member, many of those beaches are similar to beaches anywhere in the world without segregation and individuals wearing whatever they please.

    The photos I chose with this post were taken from the sites I also linked to.

  15. Reuters also enjoyed this post:

    as did the Chicago Sun Times here:

  16. Any information on the public swimming/sports facilities exclusive for women in Jeddah and around the Kingdom would be great.

  17. I live in Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah where I teach. Aramco has a private beach and according to my students there are places where they can swim without worrying about men coming by. I assume they’d be with their fathers, husbands or brothers. Also, all rec centers have separate facilities for men and women. I have never been to any of them, no time. Several of my students, however, say that they swim. Some have pools at home and some go to the rec centers.

    My niece wore a skirt which was very loose and the material doesn’t appear to cling. I don’t remember what it was though.

    As another poster stated, some women just want to be covered. I personally would never think of getting in a pool with a bikini, even if we’re all women. There’s a limit to what other women can see of each other.

    Some of the suits available today are like track suits and the material doesn’t cling. They are expensive though. You can see a few here at:

  18. Faraz,

    Many of the family activity centers will also have public swimming and sports with timings for men and women or in many cases, separate facilities for men and women. Perhaps some of our Jeddah readers can answer specifically for Jeddah.

    In Riyadh there are facilities such as you requested at Yibreens, Al Manihal Spa and at Kingdom Tower.

  19. I am an avid swimmer and beach goer , synchronized swimmer, and have highly advanced lifeguard training, which is not to boast but to explain why I have worn everything from a monokini (French Riviera), to a designer one-piece, to a full pants, shirt, and running shoes. When I see the Islamic swim suits on line I always think 4 things: pretty colours, would make an interesting costume for team routines, would be excellent for lifeguard training, covered but revealing of body lines.
    Glad to hear there are swim options in Saudi. During my brief stay in Teheran the hotel pool was off limits to women because it was outdoors and there was no way to prevent men looking from the hotel windows-so no swimming for us!

  20. You remind me of a good point…most of the five star hotels here in Riyadh have lovely swimming pools….for men. However I know of several women who have stayed and requested to use the pool. The hotel management were very accommodating in allowing them to exclusively use the pool and posting security outside so no men would gain entrance while they swam.

  21. That is very accomodating!

    We once stayed in luxury hotel in Marrakech where the pool was open to all. However, when I exited the women’s changeroom and joined my husband he said “Don’t take your bikini top off”). I thought ” Of course not, never have in Morocco, why would I start now, and why are you saying this?” When I got settled, I looked around and saw many European women in their monokini. Just as I took a breath to speak my husband knowing me very well, said “Leave it on, and look at the top of the hotel”. A number of Moroccan men including hotel workers were lined along the terrace staring at the women. I stayed “bi” so to speak.

  22. That reminds me of when I was in Indonesia and some female European tourists immediately removed their bikini tops. I guess they didn’t realize that Indonesia is predominantly a muslim country. They were accosted and directed to put their tops back on asap!

  23. I think most people, especially pre-9/11, had no idea Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country and represents the largest percentage of Muslims. Morocco is generally more relaxed on some things and attractive, sexy one-piece bathing suits are probably the normal with bikinis being totally acceptable. Amazing to try a monokini there even in a luxury hotel!
    The Islamic suits give a new definition to one-piece!

  24. i’ve always preferred an attractive one piece rather than a bikini

  25. I have an urge to go swimming!
    My own preferences: one-piece for real swimming, bikini for the beach, monokini where permitted for sunbathing, revert to bikini during swims.
    Right now the most I can manage outdoors would be to take the dog for a walk in the snow! 🙂

  26. I know this is not the best place to ask this question but I have searched the net to no avail.
    I will be in Jeddah for 6 months and I wil all appreciate if any of you could tell all the public swimming pool there is in Jeddah. I swim to keep laps to keep fit.

    Thank you.

  27. @Abdul Ahad,

    I’m not from Jeddah so my information will be generic. If you are male, then you should have no difficulties in finding a place to swim. I wouldn’t be surprised if your place of residence while in Jeddah may have a pool. If not, check with any of the many hotels and see if an arrangement can be made. And of course in Jeddah there is also the option of the sea and beaches and to choose from.

    Regards, Bedu

  28. Appreciate your reply. I am in Jeddah now and unfortunately the serviced apartment I am staying have no swimming pool.
    Most of the swimming pools in hotels are too small /not lap swimming pool thus it is not easy to swim in it for fitness.
    And the bell boy did suggest sea but the sea is not for lap swimming also.

    Thank You Again.

  29. @Abdul Ahad – I’m sorry that I do not know Jeddah as well as Riyadh. I hope a reader from Jeddah can give you some specific locations.

  30. You can buy these in sports shops in Kuwait for a fraction of the price that these Internet shops charge.

  31. Where can you find information on estrahas in Riyadh?

  32. Sorry I forgot to click notify me – Where can you find information on estrahas in Riyadh?

  33. I asked my Saudi husband and he said most people who do not have an estraha usually will drive around Thamama or other areas where there are a number of estrahas and see if any of them have a sign posted (usually in Arabic) that the estraha can be rented.

  34. […] year I had written a post on whether Saudi women liked to swim.  And this year I was reminded by a regular reader of my blog […]

  35. I wear a similar style of bathers (shorter leggings and sleeves, although my sister wears them full-length, longer skirt, bandanna-over-cap style veil) and have found it very comfortable for swimming in. They can be made of less-clingy materials and some won’t even cling when wet! You can just give the skirt a quick shake as you get out of the pool to detach it and it won’t cling anymore. For extra layers you can wear a normal one-piece suit underneath, as well. It’s better than wearing a rash top and board shorts (which is very common for anyone here in Australia, we’re obsessed with sun-protection, and in fact I believe I read somewhere that the burkini was developed by a woman in Sydney) because a specifically-designed set of modest bathers doesn’t have much drag in the water. As someone who used to swim competitively (at a national level), I can say that it’s just as easy to swim in these bathers as in a one-piece. My only problem is with the bandanna coming loose at the back, flipping over and covering my face, but Muslim girls wouldn’t have that problem as their veil tucks in to the tunic/dress part.

    I don’t care what people say about being just around family or women, I have never felt and will never feel comfortable in a bikini (and certainly not a monokini… thanks to this post, I learnt what to call half of a bikini). I think there have just got to be some standards as to what you allow other people to see, and I can definitely say there are some people I’ve seen at pools and beaches that I really wish would wear something more.

    Here in Australia my mother, sister, and I get lots of nice comments about our bathers, compliments and people asking where to buy them – including people who aren’t religious (Christian/Muslim) at all – but in Europe, I was one thrown out of a pool for wearing “clothes” to go swimming!

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