Ladies in Black

Pin It Now!
I think one of THE most fascinating aspects of Saudi are the Ladies in Black.  (as I will refer to them from now on)  As a westerner, seeing women dressed like this is a very rare occasion.  I think it is both a mixture of awe, fascination, and suspicion all rolled into one.  Your mind sees them and wonders "Wow.  How can they be comfortable?  Do they HAVE to dress that way?  What do they look like underneath?"
I realize that some people in non-Muslim countries don't really understand the reason behind this and think that it is perhaps disgraceful or wrong.  Personally, I think it's just one of those things that makes this culture unique.  Just as other cultures have their own styles as well.  There are African tribes who wear the Dashiki or they may wear no clothing at all...using just paint.  The German's have their Lederhosen.  The Scottish men have kilts.  Japanese have kimono's...and so on.  
So, my position was not to judge or question the Ladies in Black.  Just to accept that that is the lifestyle of this country and to be respectful of their choices.

My big question was...Where and how did this all start?  Is this regulated by the Kingdom or by the religion itself?  Time to do some research...and here is what I found out: (the following are quotes taken from various websites regarding the abaya)
" To begin with, covering the head is a choice in the Kingdom for both Muslim and non-Muslim women. However many Muslim women will advise you it is not a choice but decreed of their religion.  Given that I know many Muslim women from around the world who have chosen not to cover I believe that whether or not to cover is more of cultural mandate that specifically a religious mandate."

(my note: This is where you'll see that the Saudi women are typically the only ones who do the full covering of head and face.  Most other Muslim women (from various Muslim countries) will wear a sort of abaya and cover their head.  Not; however, their faces.)

"The women who choose to cover more rather than less do so because they believe that no one unrelated to them has the right to see them.  This is comparable to protecting ones chastity and purity. 
In addition to covering of the hair and the face, one may also see women who will wear black gloves as well. Again, this goes back to the belief that no one unrelated has the right to see any part of a woman from not within the immediate family.  Therefore, the hands will be gloved as well so no skin is viewed.  And in case you were wondering, these same women who choose to wear the black gloves will also wear thick dark opaque socks and shoes so the ankles are not in view either. 
A lot of these women will come from small rural areas, from the desert and be part of the old traditional beduion tribes."

According to the religion: " In Islam, the religion clearly states that women should "guard their modesty" and to not make eye contact with men (lower their gaze). But Islam also clearly demands the same requirements for men. So why is it that women in religious countries are the ones who get these clothing restrictions placed on them for their protection while men are allowed to pretty much dress as they please? One of the reasons why women in Saudi Arabia all dress alike in black from head to toe is so that they will not draw unwanted attention to themselves from men. Yet even though women cover up and most of them even veil in KSA, reporter Afifa Jabeen wrote in this Saudi Life article about how Saudi women still attract gawks, gazes and forward advances from men who seem to be oblivious to the Islamic rule about lowering their gazes."

Here is a fantastic article with more information if you are interested in learning more..

*Note: this post is strictly about the abaya.  I am not discussing women's rights here in Saudi or their role in daily life.*

**All photos in this post were found on the web.  These are not photos that I have taken**


Lindsay RC Wilson

I've learned that most Gulf Arab women wear full abaya, shayla, and veil even though most other Arab women (other countries) do not. My husband has had a unique opportunity to ask questions of his female students, too, as he has students from all different countries. You may have the chance to attend something for women only and see what they wear underneath. I would LOVE to attend a wedding because I hear it is all about the bling, and I have definitely seen what is being bought at the malls. Sequins galore.

Leah Haas

What are your restrictions. In the Navy 10 yrs ago, if you you had a reason to go to Saudi (I didn't) you had to wear a head scarf and abaya (just the dress part, if that is the right terminology). I know that Saudi ladies face FIERCE restrictions from the Police that moniter (sp?) morals, but are they as strict for woman who are clearly westerners.

Post a Comment

I LOVE reading your comments!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...