Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Women in Focus

saudi women in time magazine


This link connects to a photo collage by TIME magazine of Saudi women in the Kingdom.  The purpose of the photos is to depict that not all (although most) Saudi women are shrouded from head to toe in black.  In some professional work places, women do have choices on whether they wish to cover or interact with male colleagues.  The photos further illustrate too that men and woman can interact professionally without the need for the woman to be covered from head to toe.

Although cultural in nature, it should ultimate be the choice of the women to how much she wishes to cover.  Islam places an emphasis on modesty but a woman can remain modest without having to go as far as covering her hair and face if she does not wish to do so.


17 Responses

  1. It appears it’s primarily businesses owned by liberal members of the royal family who allow some flexibility for women in their workplaces. And only the liberal members, not all members of the royal family.

    Honest, it’s tiriing on such focus on strict dress code. I work for govn’t in an office with men and women (about even 50-50 split) where 70% of the time, I’m wearing black jeans and a dress top with dress shoes. I’ve become somewhat non-career oriented. When I do wear a skirt, nice dress shoes and jacket most people do notice a bit more. But that’s all. People do want you to do the job right and at least have a professional image that speaks of an “organized” personnae.

    Maybe because I’m over 50, I’ve had my past years of formal suited tailored jacket and skirt businesswear. 🙂

  2. That was very misleading. It is true that women working in medical facilities can wear a lab coat. Other than that the uncovered work attire in mixed company was all at Rotana which is owned by Prince Waleed bin Talal and does not represent in any way what goes on in the kingdom. Also, if you have a job that requires mixing -you have to. You don’t have a “choice” except to get another job. Women can and do wear what they like in a non gender mixed setting.

  3. My husband works in an Aramco office(for an oil service co) where women Saudi & non-Saudi are allowed to dress however they like & many do. This is the first place I saw a woman in a knee-length skirt without abaya/hijab. My doctor at Saad S. Hospital isn’t a hijabi either though she’s one of the very rare ones. Other women within the Hospital especially in the lobby are fully covered except eyes.
    My question is why black? Why can’t they choose the colors they want to wear?

  4. Rahma,

    The choice of black is cultural. That is changing and you will see women in different color abayas (still usually a dark color) or a black abaya with much more color to it.

    On Sat, Jan 26, 2013 at 3:13 AM, American Bedu

  5. @All
    can any one educate me why always a topic on Saudi women,and why not other women too. Either these Saudi women are too good or too bad which makes the topic interesting?

  6. Sami, the focus of this blog is on Saudi Arabia.
    So when there’s an article on women it will be about Saudi women.
    However, there’s been articles on expat women, foreign women who are married to or betrayed by Saudi men, or foreign maids in Saudi.

    If you want to read about women who are not from Saudi Arabia, or have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia, I suggest you go to a different site.

  7. Exactly, Aafke!

  8. @sami,

    Let’s see:

    – The blog is about Saudi
    – It is written by a woman and visited mostly by women

    If you have 2 neurons to rub together, you may be able to figure out that it is possible a lot of the topics would be about Saudi Women.

  9. The “About” page also explains pretty clearly what this blog is all about too! (LOL)

  10. I always considered the name ”American Bedu” and the two flags in the banner as a hint that the blog may have something to do with Saudi Arabia.
    But then I am mega-intelligent…
    We can’t expect such perspicacity from every visitor to the blog…..

  11. @ American Bedu, I know about the cultural part of the black, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. I have lived in other Arabs countries, not in the Gulf where women wear different colors. And you’re right about black abayas with different colored ornaments here in Khobar. My understanding is that it wasn’t always the case, I mean the black.

  12. It wasn’t. Women did not wear abayas either, they wore all sorts of colorful dresses, suited to the climate and the work. Regional dresses were very diverse, colorful, and ”normal” on the whole. Or women wore modern western fashions in the cities. Nor did all women cover their faces or hair. Very often they wore small hats, or sunhats, or pieces of cloth on their heads, but with their hair in tresses in front of them. The current ”uniform” of black abayas and covered hair was imposed on Saudi women only a few decades ago. It was not free will it was forced upon them. By ”men from Ryad” as I heard a Saudi man tell in a documentary.

  13. So the abaya is not that ”cultural” either. Real Saudi culture was very different. But the true saudi culture has been successfully destroyed until there is almost nothing left. No more colorful dresses, no more music, no more normal interactions between men and women, now it is a shocking ”novelty” when women want to get a job, even as a cashier, when women of course always worked and side by side with men too.

    I wonder what the real effects on the Saudi society are of all this destruction of original culture. When this happens it takes away people’s roots and a society will get into trouble, people will exhibit all kinds of behavioral problems, maybe start drugs and alcohol, relations between people suffer. And in Saudi Arabia there is the also later added unnatural, unhealthy segregation of the sexes.
    As moq said once: ”Sauid Arabia has no culture anymore, it is an experiment in social engineering”

  14. My understanding is that the expectation of the black abaya in Saudi goes back to the beginning with the creation of the Haia and political clout of the Wahabis.

    On Sat, Jan 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM, American Bedu

  15. It is odd given that Saudi Arabia wants to slow or prevent the spread of western forms of dress, that they have suppressed native forms of dress especially for women. I assume that the powerful confuse conformity with morality and modesty.

  16. Nah, they just want to ban all happiness and beauty in life.

  17. People are not obliged to wear Burqa / Niqab in Islam. They are obliged to cover their head …they can leave their face, hands and feet uncovered. Black is not necessary color to cover..they can use multicolored abaya. Go to pinterest and search for hijab fashion and you can see the fashion with hijab. Its just a piece of clothing and nothing else !

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