Saudi Arabia: The Perfect Abaya

Okay…here is a post that I know Aafke, as an artist, will certainly enjoy.  I want each of us to describe what would be the perfect abaya.  Let’s go on the premise that it must be a black garment.  But, how would YOU like to jazz it up … or down?

First of all for me, the abaya MUST have side pockets!  I also prefer an abaya that snaps or hooks up the front.  It is too awkward and bulky to lift one over the head and it also messes up hair and makeup.  My abaya also needs to have slits in the side to make it easy for walking.  I have a long stride and an abaya without slits looks ridiculous on me as I walk along.

Now, about jazzing it up or bling… I want to make a statement.  My abaya should have a big pink ribbon on the back with the words in Arabic – ‘Let’s find the cure for cancer NOW.’  I would also want pink crystals along the sleeves and the neckline.  Of course my abaya would have a hood which is lined inside with pink material.

I’m not sure if the Muttawa would approve of my abaya but it would be ideal for me.  Of course I would find out where an American Bedu reader found her pink cowboy boots so I could wear some under my abaya too.

Saudi Arabia: Image Styling Event for Women in Riyadh

SGEntertainment presents:

Group Image Styling EVENING Session


Sabina Marini, Image Stylist


Sabina has worked with designer labels events such as Sophia Swire London, Joe Tan for Jimmy Choo, Banana Republic, Tashi London, Vogue, In Style Magazine and more…

Join us to learn about:


  • Styles & fashion that are right for your body
  • Colors & trends that work for you
  • Hints & tips to create personal style


To register e-mail: [email protected] – 056 799 5965

Deadline for reservations is Saturday, Jan 7

Session starts on Monday, Jan 9 2012

6.30pm – 8.30pm

Followed by a delicious 3 courses dinner

175SAR or 200SAR (dinner included)

Saudi Arabia: No Words Necessary

Saudi Arabia: Empowering the Saudi Women

This is a time of change and transition for Saudi Arabia and especially so for the Saudi woman.  Within the past year Saudi women have become more vocal on their needs and desires.  Better yet, they are also being heard.  They may not be able to legally drive yet in Saudi Arabia but they will no longer be subjected to having an unknown man attend them while buying intimate apparel.  Removing male lingerie clerks will result in opening thousands of new jobs for women.  Additionally protests were over-ruled allowing women to work as cashiers in some of the Kingdom’s large grocery stores.  While these opportunities may seem like baby steps they are opportunities for further empowerment of the Saudi woman.

However perhaps the greatest opportunity which can impact women from all over the Kingdom towards empowerment through education and skills is through the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society.

As reported by Reem Al-Mukhtar of Arab News, the Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, one of the leading nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia, launches on Thursday a new project to reduce poverty and increase employment among women.

The program, called “My Future Is in My Hands,” is in association with several training centers and education experts. The mission of the organization, established in 1962 by Princess Sara Al-Faisal, is to socially and economically empower Saudi women through financial assistance, training and job skill development. It also aims to enable Saudi women to be productive members of society.

The new project follows a research conducted among women between 18 and 40 years of age who took part in Al-Nahda’s financial support projects. The study revealed that 93 percent did not enroll in university or continue higher education, and only 18 percent were able to find employment.  “Some of the major obstacles faced by this segment of society is the apparent lack of counseling, ambition and self-motivation,” said Dania Almaeena, project manager at Al-Nahda

“Therefore, Al-Nahda has launched a project to tackle such obstacles by providing college counseling, guidance and training. We try to inform our young women about the opportunities and potential they have, and motivate them to build a better future for themselves by obtaining higher degrees. We also help them choose the career that matches their interests and ambitions.”

The project will start with senior high school students and gradually expand to other age groups that are interested. The Optimum Training Center, The British Council, Education Experts and INJAZ Saudi Arabia are associated with the program. For details visit

Saudi Arabia: Is Less Pressure Applied to Saudi Women on Appearance


The majority of Saudi women who I have met are confident and beautiful whether a size six or a size sixteen.  They do not let physical attributes interfere with their confidence and inner self.  That is not to say that Saudi women are not conscious of their outward appearance.  From when the Saudi woman becomes of an age where she is noticed as a possible wife for another woman’s son, she is aware of her appearance and puts her best face forward.  The face may be unadorned of make-up, depending on the family, but generally she will take great care with her hair and body shape.  An unrelated man will not see her but the mothers and grandmothers at weddings will take notice.  Once the Saudi woman is married she will take delight in keeping up a beautiful appearance for her new husband.  However I have noticed that after several years of marriage and several children, a Saudi woman may put on excess weight.  Unlike the western woman though, the Saudi woman will retain her sense of confidence and not feel that excess weight is a liability.


Is it the culture in which the Saudi woman is raised that makes her feel excess weight is not a taboo?  The Saudi women may not have all the pressure that a Western women would face with the stereotype that excess weight on a woman is a liability.  The culture of the Saudi woman does not provide many options of fitness facilities or the type of commercials on western media promoting thin as the primary attractive vantage point of a woman.


Even if a Saudi woman puts on excess weight, she still dresses as a diva under her opaque abaya.  Whereas a Western woman may either choose to mask her weight with shapeless clothes or as if pretending she does not care, dress carelessly without conscious thought to style.


A Western woman may also receive peer pressure that putting on excess weight could cause her husband to have a roving eye.  She might be encouraged to try diets which may make her lose weight fast but are not healthy for her body or consider extreme surgeries.  All for the sake of an outer appearance that meets “society acceptable standards.”


Whereas the Saudi women is taught from a young girl that she is beautiful both inside and out.  It is these same teachings which give a Saudi woman the additional confidence and poise that come natural to her.

Saudi Arabia: Just Pack A Bag


American Bedu is pleased to endorse and follow the example of Noon and encourages American Bedu readers wherever you are to simply ‘pack a bag.’

I think Noon’s grassroots initiative is a wonderful way of making a big difference in someone’s life.  This is the perfect time to take the steps of packing your bag, especially as Ramadan begins on/about 01 August.  One does not need to be Muslim to follow and participate.


Noon’s initiative to pack a bag with items that you no longer need or use and are willing to donate to someone in need is fabulous.  In Saudi Arabia this can be a nice gesture to a housemaid or a driver or perhaps one of the many individuals who work hard to keep the streets clean.  If you are not sure who to give your bag to, I’m confident any mosque or charitable organization or orphanage would be happy to accept such bags.  Remember that items in a bag should be in good condition and clean.


For enterprising individuals, I’m sure some businesses might be willing to donate items for the bags such as toiletry products or perhaps toys.

Bags can be given to individuals at any time or some may want to present groups with bags during Eid Al Fitr.  There are many families in Jeddah continuing to rebuild from the devastating flood that could use bags with clothes, toys, household items, food.

Noon’s initiative has started in Kuwait.  Let’s see if “Just Pack a Bag” can become a worldwide initiative.  Share with American Bedu readers where you are and about the bag you have packed.


Saudi Arabia: Interview with an American Expatriate in Tabuk

American Bedu is pleased to have the opportunity to interview Linda, an American expatriate who has lived in Tabuk for the past nine years.

First of all, Thanks, Linda, for allowing me this opportunity to ask you a lot of questions!!


Let’s start with a little bit of background.  Where are you originally from in the United States?  What was it that motivated or interested you in accepting a job in Saudi Arabia?

Where I am from is a hard question? I grew up as a military kid so I’m sort from all over.  The last place I lived before Tabuk was Steubenville, Ohio.  It is along the Ohio River about 30 miles from Pittsburgh, PA.

Getting married was my motivation.  I married an American gentleman who happens to be a contractor with the Royal Saudi Land Forces.  When I was doing the paperwork for my initial visa, I had to complete what was basically a job application.  The position I applied for was “Wife”.  I have the luxury of being a stay home wife.



Prior to your arrival in Saudi Arabia, did you have any contacts with Saudis?  How much did you know about Saudi Arabia and its customs? 

I didn’t have contact with Saudis but I had access to several colleges. I visited the Eastern Studies departments of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Melon and Carlow College. I did educate myself as much as I could so there were not a lot of surprises.  I knew I would have to wear the abiya and cover my hair.  I knew that I would not be driving.


What kind of work do you do in Tabuk?

AS I mentioned, my job in Tabuk is caring for my husband and our dog and 3 cats. In the US, I worked with at-risk kids as a behavior specialist.


How do you feel living in one of the Kingdom’s smaller cities rather than a metropolis like Riyadh or Jeddah?

Living in Tabuk suits me.  I’m not a big city kind of girl.  We drive to Riyadh once a year for a big shopping spree at Tamimis and I’m good.  For th emost part though, I find the big cities too fast, too noisy and too dirty.  I feel the same about US cities.  They are nice to visit but I don’t want to live there.


What is typical life like in Tabuk?

For me  and the other stay home wives, life is quiet.


Do you interact socially with many Saudis?

We really don’t have much opportunity to socially interact with Saudis.  Tabuk is an agricultural area and has a large Saudi military presence with both the Saudi Air Force and the Saudi Army.


Since Tabuk is a smaller city, how are expatriate women viewed by locals?  How much do you feel it is necessary to cover up?

In the time I have lived here, I have been treated with kindness and respect.


What kind of housing are you, as an expatriate, provided?  Do you live on a compound?

We live on a Western compound.  It is really four compounds within what we call the Great Wall. Seven companies are represented and we have American, Australians, British and French expats living together.  But the numbers are small.  There are maybe 150 people on all the compounds.  The contracts are smaller now so not as many people are needed and many of the positions are unaccompanied.


 Can you share some of your highlights of living nine years in Tabuk?

The highlights..hmmm.  I would have to say the travel opportunities.  Being only a couple of hours from the Red Sea, we go to snorkel and camp a few times a year.  It is an amazing experience.  The first time I went, I felt like I was living a National Geographic special.  I got to see sea life I had only seen pictures of in books.  A bit closer to home, we have what we call the Saudi Grand Canyon.  It is beautiful and more astounding because no water was involved in creating it.  The canyon has been the work of earthquakes.  There are also some pretty interesting rock formations in that area the result of wind erosion.  It is just beautiful.  We have also traveled to Petra and the area surrounding and to Medin Saleh.


What have been some of the lowlights?

Only one lowlight and I have learned to accept it for now.  When I first got here, I was into some redecorating projects and it was hard when I would run out of something to not jump in the car and go to Walmart to get what I needed to finish.


What can you do for entertainment?

Even though we don’t have many of the amenities the larger compounds have like bowling alleys and movie theaters, we make do.  We do have a rec center and once a week we have a movie night. We set up a dvd and make popcorn and watch a movie.  We also have parties for birthdays and holidays.

We wives had a monthly morning tea where we gather and eat chat. We are two Americans, one Turk, one Morrocan, one Malay and four Filipinas.  We each make a dish from our culture.


Is it easy to obtain what you need from the local markets?

This is a loaded question.  Supplies seems to come in fits and starts, so when something I like is available, I buy as many as I can and store them. I have stored ricotta cheese in the freezer for a year. When I first got here, there was one market with two locations.  Now there are three market chains, Astra, Panda and Zaad so there is now some completion.  When there was none, shopping could become a mission if you were looking for a certain item like canned green beans.


What have you missed most from the United States?

Walmart and Lowe’s


Since you have been in Tabuk for 9 years, do you speak Arabic?

Since Tabuk is rather small, there are not the programs for expats the bigger cities have so it was difficult to find someone to teach me.  I picked up a few phrases while out and about but not much.  Last year, an Egyptian, who works as part of my husband’s company, and his Turkish wife moved to one of the compounds within the Great Wall. She and I became friendly and she agreed to teach me some basic Arabic.  I know enough to not embarrass myself shopping and I can get around the airports and hotels fairly decently.


What kind of adjustment/adapting challenges did you face when you had first arrived?

The not having some place to be everyday and what to do with all the ‘down’ time now available to me.  Prior to coming to Tabuk I worked 12 to 14 hour shifts at least 5 days a week.  So I went from running full speed to STOP.  It took me a while to adjust to the slower pace of my life.  The upside it I rediscovered things I loved to do but didn’t have time for.  I love reading, crafting, gardening, sewing, and  cooking and baking.


  What advice would you give for other expatriates thinking of coming to a smaller city to work?

Since I don’t have a job outside the home, I really can’t speak to this.  What I have seen from others though is most will find a hobby.  Being as close as we are to the Red Sea, most everyone who does come here takes diving/snorkeling lessons.  I would also suggest making the decision to bloom where you are planted.  When I begin to get a bit sticky and fed up, I remember it is my CHOICE to be here.


What are the disadvantages?

Other than not being able to drive, I think the disadvantages are those of any small town anywhere.  There just isn’t the availability of some things here that are available in Riyadh or Jeddah


Does a woman require a driver to get out and about in Tabuk?

If you are living in the city limits so to speak, not necessarily, but that is changing.  When I arrived there were lots of open spaces and empty places.  Those are rapidly being built up.  It seems every time I come back from a holiday, some new road or building is going in. I am blessed in my husband’s company provided us with a van twice a week for shopping and the driver will take us anywhere we ask.  We do not have an on-call driver, but Hussein is available if we need him with prior notice, such as a doctor appointment or we need to go to the airport and our husband isn’t available.



Is good health care available? 

Not so much.  The health care facilities here are about 20 years behind the US.  I needed blood work done a few years ago and about walked out when the lab tech got a reusable need from the autoclave. This was after spending 20 minutes explaining to the doctor I needed an order for a liver function test because I was starting a new medication.  The doctor kept telling me the medication I was taking wasn’t available in Kingdom and I was telling him I was aware of that, which is why I brought year’s supply of it back with me.  I get all my female medical done in the US.



How long do you anticipate staying in Tabuk?

Maybe another 2 to 3 years. I will start spending  2 months in the US and 3 months in Kingdom.  I am ready for a change.


Many thanks for sharing your answers with American Bedu readers.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give a different perspective.



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