Saudi Arabia: Outside Socializing Among Families

I always welcome when American Bedu readers will email me with questions about Saudi Arabia and its customs, cultures and traditions.  It is easy to forget that what might become ‘natural’ to an expatriate in the Kingdom may still seem ‘foreign’ to someone who has never been there but interested in learning and understanding.

I was recently asked whether Saudi couples could ever go out together within Saudi Arabia.  For example, could two brothers and their wives be able to meet at a restaurant for dinner?

The answer to the question is Yes.  Married couples can go out together socially.  They would be able to meet up in the family section of a restaurant and sit together.  However, the sister-in-law’s would be expected to remain in their abaya, hijjab and perhaps even niqab.  If the family is less traditional and more open, then the women may remove their niqab and allow the brother-in-law to see her face.

One time my husband and I took a group of extended family to one of the Western restaurants in Riyadh.  The family section did not have dividers like many of the Saudi restaurants do.  The adult family members sat together at one big table and the teens and younger kids sat together at separate tables.  The women who were there chose to remove their niqabs as it was much easier to eat and drink that way.

Some families feel more comfortable if they go out and are able to sit in a “private” family section.  For example there is an excellent Mexican restaurant in Riyadh where families get to sit in their own small private dining room.  There is a buzzer when one requires the presence of wait staff.

So in sum, Saudi couples can certainly go out and dine together but how they do depends upon the couples themselves.

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6 Responses

  1. Oh, I can imagine trying to eat with a niqab to be quite challenging, but doable. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I would like it if the women would demand the men do the same. Eat with something over their face. Then maybe they will see how absurd that is and that they have taken this to far to the extremism. It is at a level of crazy and insane.

  3. I will never get the eating with Niqab thing- but at least the women are out with their families. There are also plenty of women out in restaurants not wearing Niqab.

  4. imagine trying to eat spaguetti bolognaise with a niqab on! lol

  5. If a woman can eat with Niqab, what is the problem with others.If i can not eat with sticks like chinese , what is the problem with others.
    Eat, how one can eat comfortably. Eat with fork and knife or with hands. No problem.

  6. I usually eat with my niqaab on when in public. It is not easy, but certainly not impossible. I can eat almost everything with the niqaab on, but choose to avoid stuff with a lot of sauce or watery, and even ice-cream.

    People do look at me, but after a while, they get tired as there is nothing to see. I believe they were just curious who I do it. Well, I just partially lift the niqqab to put the food in my mouth.

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