In Saudi Arabia most of women wears abaya. Abaya is a plain black robe worn by Muslim women to cover their regular clothing, It could be described as a long-sleeve robe-like dress and it is the traditional form of dress for many countries of the Arabian peninsula including Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. In Iran the abaya is referred to as a chador and in South Asia a burqa.
The abaya covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqab, a face veil covering all but the eyes.
The origins of the abaya are vague. Some think that it existed as long as 4 000 years ago in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and when Islam arose in the seventh century C.E., the religion absorbed local veiling practices into its culture, probably due to the dressing traditions of the women of Arab Jahiliya.
In those days women wore dresses that revealed their necks, chests, even breasts as well as other parts of their bodies. They also drew their veils backwards while leaving the front parts wide open (understandable in the crushing desert heat). Consequently, when Islam arrived, they were ordered to draw their veils forward to cover their chest and to protect women from acts of disrespect.
Some think that the idea of ‘the covering’ was more about class than it was about religion. In pre-Islam urban centers of the Arabian Peninsula veiling was seen as a sign of privilege and a luxury afforded to women who didn’t have to work. They were distinguished from slave girls and prostitutes, who were not allowed to veil or cover, and nomadic and rural women too busy working to be bothered with something so impractical as a face veil and extra layer of clothing.
Today, the strictest interpretations of Islamic Shari’a law dictate that Muslim women should wear full body coverings in front of any man they could theoretically marry. This means that it is not obligatory in the company of father, brothers, grandfathers, uncles or young children and does not need to be worn in front of other Muslim women.
Abayas come in a multiplicity of types and design, and different styles and colours are favoured by women from particular regions according to specific religious and cultural interpretations.
Although black is the preferred colour in some countries Muslim women can generally wear whatever color they like as long as it does not generate unnecessary attention. For this reason earth-tones are popular choices.
Muslim women often wear designer labels underneath their outer garments and increasingly they want to wear fashionable outerwear too. Devout need not mean drab. Fashion designers are waking up to this and specialised stores, websites and fashion shows are springing up, top European fashion labels including John Galliano and Blumarine have recently showcased models wearing couture abayas.
The abaya has come a long way in 4,000 years!
Reading a novel about Saudi Arabian history, studying the Sunni Wahhabi beliefs, or watching the evening news doesn’t give Westerners true insight into Saudi Arabia culture. Indeed, a culture that is so foreign to the Western lifestyle may seem impenetrable – until you hear the account of a Western woman who lived the culture while nursing in Saudi.
Those in the medical profession have the kind of access to the inner workings of the Kingdom in a way that other Westerners simply don’t. After all, most contractors live in relative isolation, staying in compounds designed not to raise the ire of Wahhabists who view Westerners (and even other Muslims who don’t ascribe to Wahhabi beliefs) as infidels. But nurses and doctors have entry into the homes and lives of Saudis that is unparalleled.
From a Western woman’s perspective, Saudi Arabia culture is an eye-opener – to say the least. It’s hard to imagine two cultures that are more divergent in their attitudes toward women. While it’s true that women in the West still face pay inequity and the proverbial glass ceiling, the ceiling for Saudi women is seemingly made of concrete.
That’s not to say that Saudi women necessarily perceive any oppression. Indeed, the abaya – the black outer garment worn by Saudi women – is embraced as an expression of religious devotion. In Saudi Arabia culture, women’s attire must not be form fitting, must not attract attention, and must not be worn out of vanity. Moreover, although women must cover all but their hands and faces, some choose to (or are told to by their husbands) also wear veils and gloves.
Like a woman’s clothing, a woman’s role in Saudi Arabia culture is largely dictated by the prevailing religious beliefs. Unlike in the West, where a woman’s equal partnership with her husband is at least given lip service, a Saudi marriage is often arranged, with the woman becoming the man’s property after marriage. As such, she must be obedient and submissive; if she is not, her husband may punish her or beat hear. And, although it is less widespread than it once was, men can take more than one wife.
Saudi law generally dictates that a woman is valued as one-half of a man. For example, a woman receives half of the inheritance of her brother, and in court, a woman’s testimony is given half the weight of a man’s. Certain punishments, such as whipping, are dictated by law and through practice, often at the hands of what could be termed “morality police.” In Saudi Arabia culture, morality has many shades of meaning; prostitution, for example, can be a crime of being in the company of a man who is not a woman’s husband or male relative. Typically, a woman faces 90 lashes, although sometimes the punishment doled out is 200 lashes.
When you live in a culture so different from your own, the experience can’t help but open a floodgate of feelings. On the one hand, many of the practices you witness are abhorrent and rock the very foundation of your beliefs; on the other hand, within the context of Saudi Arabia culture and society, they are terribly consistent with Wahhabi beliefs.
The message is loud and clear, you, the Arab girl, is inferior to your brother. What does that do to self-esteem on the long, one can only imagine.
A leading Saudi preacher believes the Facebook website is a ‘door to lust’ A woman was beaten up and shot dead by her father for talking online with a man she met on the website Facebook. The case was reported on a Saudi Arabian news site as an example of the “strife” the social networking site is causing in the Islamic nation. It said the man shot his daugther after discovering she had been chatting online to a young man she had met on Facebook.? Security sources assured Al-Arabiya.net that the father beat up his daughter and then shot her dead,? it said. A leading Saudi preacher told Al-Arabiya.net that Facebook was a “door to lust” for women and called for it to be blocked to prevent social “strife”. Sheikh Ali al-Maliki said women were posting “revealing pictures” and “behaving badly” on the site, which has become popular with young Saudis. Internet engineers said that young Saudis were using Facebook to flirt and make “web-cam calls”. Saudi Arabia imposes an austere form of Sunni Islam which prevents unrelated men and women from mixing, bans women from driving and demands that women wear a headscarf and cloak in public.
Women in Saudi Arabia are using Facebook and other networking sites to chat to men One female Saudi Facebook fan told The Mail that blocking the site would be pointless because people would simply switch to similar sites. The 27-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, admitted many young Saudis used Facebook to get in touch with members of the opposite sex. ?In Saudi Arabia, we live more of a virtual life than a real life. I know people who are involved in on-line romances with people they have never met in real life,? the woman said. ?And many of us use Facebook for other things, like talking about human rights and women’s rights.
“We can protest on Facebook about the jailing of a blogger which is something we couldn’t do on the streets.” Engineers also told Al-Arabiya.net that there were Facebook pages for homosexual and lesbian relations. Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punished by flogging, jail or even death. The Saudi authorities block access to websites they deem sexual, pornographic, politically offensive, “un-Islamic” or disruptive because of controversial religious and political content.
But Syria is the only Arab country so far to have blocked Facebook. When the ban was enforced in December, Syrian media said it was to prevent Israeli users from infiltrating Syrian social networks.
Let’s think about it…taking the culture and customs into consideration, who really has it better in Saudi Arabia? The Man or the Woman? True, women cannot drive but that means a man is expected to either transport the woman where she needs to go or to provide a driver for her. The Saudi man is expected to take care of the woman. For example he is to provide her housing, clothing, furnishing of the house in a manner to which she is accustomed. He is also expected to give her spending money for herself and which she is not accountable. On the other hand if the Saudi woman is working, her income is her own. She is not mandated to share it in any way with her husband. Her savings are her own.
Interestingly I was chatting with some Saudi friends about this very topic. The predominant view among them (male and female) was that the female had it better than the man. The man has more pressure and responsibilities attached to the fact that he is a man. He must work; he must provide; he should not ask his wife for contributions or expect her to contribute. The Saudi guys shared that in their observation the women enjoy having their needs met by the men and most women realize they are treated like a queen in that regard.
Most women are provided with a housemaid, a driver and no pressure applied to them to contribute financially to a household. As a result it is not unusual for many of these women to enjoy taking various classes at either universities or other institutions and perhaps at some juncture taking a part time job. Why not since the majority of tasks within the home are overseen and taken care of by the housemaid. The man on the other hand not only has to provide for his wife but is usually expected to provide for his mother and sisters too (especially if they are widowed). The Saudi men with whom I have spoken feel that a woman cannot understand the constant pressure they are under as the primary provider for so many view women as cherished and cosseted.
The author of “The Girls of Riyadh” is doing the US media circuit to promote the new publication of her book in English. Here’s a taste, but make sure to read the whole profile:
Finding love in Saudi Arabia is practically impossible, especially for young Muslim women.
That’s the premise 25-year-old author Rajaa Alsanea tackles in her novel, “Girls of Riyadh,” which has already created a stir throughout the Arab world.
“In Saudi, there are a lot of restrictions,” she said during an interview at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Dentistry. Alsanea is pursuing a master’s degree in oral sciences before returning to Riyadh to live with her family, practice dentistry and continue writing fiction.
“We’re living in the 21st century, and there are still traditions from the 19th century, and that’s just insane,” she said. “You have the Internet … and freedom of speech. You have modern schools and modern hospitals. And everything around you is digital. And yet you have to go through all this pain when you want to get married.”
…”It’s my obligation to try to fix things in Saudi. I’m not trying to fix the government or Islam. What I’m trying to fix is mentality, how people think. It’s the traditions,” she said. “These traditions either [need to] loosen up, or we should get rid of them.”
Aseel Omran is an Arabian singer. She was born on November 14 1989. Aseel is sister of a media presenter Jane Imran. Her first album was Kjlanp. She married to a broadcaster Khaled Bahraini. She is very talented. She is most famous in Saudi peoples. She is an attractive personality.