I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Thursday, January 4, 2024

How to dress in Saudi Arabia

This lovely woman was the guide our first day in Jeddah. She explained that the way she was dressed—black slacks and blouse under an abaya that was just a long loose multicolored jacket, and no hijab—is quite acceptable in Saudi Arabia now.

That may be, but she was the only Saudi woman I saw who wasn't wearing a headscarf, and most of them are still wearing all black. She repeated what I'd been told by women in Egypt—that wearing an abaya and hijab is cultural and not religious. But I'm not sure that's a useful distinction if you can be shunned or arrested for how you are dressed.

Culture can evolve, of course, and religion does as well, though much more slowly. But I don't think anything changes quickly in Saudi Arabia. This is after all a country where women have only been able to drive since 2018.

Fortunately, unlike Iran, women tourists do not have to wear abayas or hijabs, though we're expected to “dress modestly.” Most of us wore slacks and a long-sleeved blouse, and that was apparently acceptable.

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