Saudi Arabia is a country that is known for its strict adherence to Islamic laws and customs. One of the most visible symbols of Islamic dress for women is the hijab, a headscarf that covers the hair and neck.
Now, being a very popular attire in the country, does it mean it is mandatory for women to wear the hijab in Saudi Arabia? No, it is not a must for women to wear a Hijab in Saudi Arabia. However, people from all walks of life are expected to dress modestly by covering their entire bodies.
Women should not expose their legs, shoulders, chest area, and waist, but donning traditional clothing is not mandatory. Besides, women may choose to leave their hair uncovered if they prefer. In this guide, I will explore the topic of hijab in Saudi Arabia and provide a detailed analysis of the subject.
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What do Saudi Arabian women wear?
Until recently, all women in Saudi Arabia, including visitors, residents, and citizens, were obligated to wear an abaya, a long and loose-fitting robe, and cover their heads in public. This was reinforced by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Although some local women have started to forego the abaya, the majority still wear it.
Saudi women have different choices in terms of head coverings. Some opt for a full-face veil, such as the niqab (which covers everything except the eyes) or the burqa (which covers even the eyes). Others choose to wear a chador (which allows the face to be fully visible, but the hair is tightly covered) or a hijab (a looser headscarf).
Overview of Islamic dress codes
Islamic dress codes vary widely across different countries and cultures. However, there are certain universal principles that apply to all Muslim women. The most important of these is the requirement to dress modestly.
This means covering the body in loose-fitting clothing that does not reveal the shape of the body. The purpose of modest dress is to protect women's dignity and prevent them from being objectified or sexualized
The role of the hijab in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, the hijab is seen as a symbol of piety and modesty. It is also seen as a way to distinguish Muslim women from non-Muslim women. While there is no law in Saudi Arabia that requires women to wear the hijab, it is strongly encouraged.
Women who do not wear the hijab may face social stigma and discrimination. In some cases, women who do not wear the hijab may even be harassed or assaulted.
The hijab is not the only form of Islamic dress that is encouraged in Saudi Arabia. Women are also expected to wear loose-fitting, ankle-length dresses called abayas. The abaya is usually black but can be any color. It is worn over regular clothing and is designed to cover the entire body except for the face, hands, and feet.
Exceptions to the Hijab requirement
There are some exceptions to the hijab requirement in Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslim women are not required to wear the hijab, although they are expected to dress modestly. Additionally, women who are performing certain activities, such as swimming or exercising, are not required to wear the hijab.
Religious police and enforcement of dress codes
The religious police, also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, are responsible for enforcing Islamic dress codes in Saudi Arabia.
They have the power to arrest and punish women who do not comply with the dress code. However, the religious police have come under criticism for their harsh treatment of women and for their abuse of power.
What Do Female Tourists Wear In Saudi Arabia?
Female travelers don’t need to cover their heads with an abaya or scarves. Wearing exposing shirts, tight pants, or short skirts in public places, on the other hand, may provoke negative reactions and condemnation.
Female tourists should instead wear loose clothes that conceal their shoulders, breasts, and legs. Furthermore, women should use only opaque fabrics to ensure that undergarments are not visible through clothing.
Although skirts below the knee are technically permissible for tourists, wearing maxi skirts or loose-fitting trousers is advisable. Blouses and tops should also be loose with long sleeves and high necklines like these affordable and ethically made turtlenecks to ensure modesty. It is essential to avoid visible underwear and wear only opaque materials, as anything see-through may reveal the contours of one’s body, which could lead to trouble.
Shoes are generally not a concern in Saudi Arabia as long as they are not flashy or suggestive. If you plan to do a lot of walking while touring the country, opting for comfortable sneakers or simple sandals is best. Natural-looking makeup is generally acceptable in Saudi Arabia.
Wrapping it up
When visiting Saudi Arabia, it is crucial to keep in mind that it is an Islamic state with a strong commitment to its faith and traditions. Both men and women should cover as much skin as possible to avoid offending locals or attracting attention from the religious police.
Women should not wear clothes that reveal their shoulders, legs, or arms or show any cleavage. This will also help tourists to blend in with the locals. Additionally, wearing appropriate and modest clothing when visiting beaches during Ramadan is essential.
While there is no law in Saudi Arabia that requires women to wear the hijab, it is strongly encouraged as a symbol of piety and modesty. Women who choose not to wear the hijab may face social stigma and discrimination. However, there are exceptions to the hijab requirement for non-Muslim women and for women who are performing certain activities. The religious police are responsible for enforcing Islamic dress codes in Saudi Arabia, but they have come under criticism for their harsh treatment of women. Overall, the issue of hijab in Saudi Arabia is complex and multifaceted, and it is important to approach it with sensitivity and understanding.
While there is no law in Saudi Arabia that requires women to wear the hijab, it is strongly encouraged as a symbol of piety and modesty. Women who choose not to wear the hijab may face social stigma and discrimination. However, there are exceptions to the hijab requirement for non-Muslim women and for women who are performing certain activities.
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