Women in Saudi Arabia are very restricted with regards to just about every aspect of their lives, they cannot drive, they cannot travel without permission, they are segregated from men and so on. They are even restricted as to how they are able to dress.
Women in Saudi Arabia are required to cover up entirely using a large black “cloak” called an Abaya, this is normally black although you do occasionally see one of a different color, and will cover the woman from neck down to the ground. This is worn whenever a Saudi woman or woman of any other nationality is in a public place in Saudi Arabia. It is also necessary to wear a head scarf to cover the hair; to protect you women from the gazes of us lustful men who would otherwise be uncontrollable monsters if we caught glimpses of bare flesh and hair. This is all very much like Victorian England where many households would cover the legs of tables and chairs in case men should have lustful thoughts.
There is no plunging neckline to show off ample assets or any other possible removal of material, women are made to wear these tents to protect them from us men. That being said many will have their Abaya specially made to be better fitting and more flattering for their figures, others will decorate them with patterns and motifs as well as sequins and trim to make them more “beautiful”; that being said to most of us men they still look like black tents on the move.
Most Saudi women also wear a veil to only show the eyes, although some go to the full extreme of wearing a full face veil as well as black gloves so that not one tiny piece of flesh is showing.
Workwear for women.
In most workplaces this is also the accepted mode of dress, however in some areas such as nursing you will find the nurses (Saudi or expat) are dressed in more sensible clothes for the work; long trousers and a long sleeve smock that effectively covers all naked flesh from the gaze of us totally imperfect men
How do men know which is their wife?
This is something that has been a cause for discussion amongst myself and my friends for sometime; how do Saudi men pulling up at the mall entrance to pick up their wives know which one is theirs? They all look the same! We have come to the conclusion that the reason for Saudi men having multiple wives is that they often take home the wrong woman. (Sorry I had to add this discussion here.)
Can you wear Make Up and Nail Polish?
There is no hard and fast rule about the use of makeup and nail polish and other female adornments and enhancements, you will often see some very beautifully made up eyes on Saudi women and those that have their faces uncovered do wear some makeup. That being said if you as an expat get stopped by a Mutawa (religious police) and told to do something about your make up do as you are told or leave the area as quickly as you can. The video below is of a Saudi woman who was told to leave a mall by the Mutawa as she was wearing nail polish (although from the commentary it also appears that she has her hair uncovered also), she argues back and the police are summoned and remove the Mutawa, if you were an expat however it is likely that the reverse would have happened and you would be the one removed for sure!
Saudi woman told to leave mall by Mutawa for wearing nail polish
Wearing Jewelry in Saudi
It is acceptable to wear jewelry and many women will boast many ring and bracelets of 24ct Saudi Gold to show their wealth as will some expats, gold being a very portable way of carrying your wealth with you in the kingdom. The women of course are unable to show off their necklaces and maybe more risque piercings which are well hidden beneath the layers of black cloth that they have to wear.
What can you wear under an Abaya?
The answer to this is as much or as little as you like, I once walked around a mall in Riyadh with a group of women who claimed to be wearing nothing beneath their Abayas, I asked them to prove it but none would.
There are many designer clothes outlets and top end stores in Saudi Malls selling very expensive clothes, you will see the Saudi women buying some very fashionable items which they then have to hide beneath their Abayas. Most dress very well and take great care over their appearance even though they have to cover up.
Not Wearing an Abaya – can lead to your death!
There was a fire at a Mecca (Makkah) school in 2002 in which 15 girls died; the reason that they died is because the Mutawa refused to let them leave the burning building as they were not wearing their Abaya and head scarves. They beat the girls and pushed them back into the burning building and refused to let rescuers into the building to get them!
Maybe they should work on the men’s lust and remove the root cause of the problem and not just work on keeping temptation out of sight, after all the men know what is under the Abaya, just because they can’t see it does not mean they don’t still want it! If anything the Abaya makes men worse as they become excited at the merest glimpse of naked flesh.