Typical Dress

DSCF6004 1 copy
Men dressed in white long dresses, called thobes, and women decked out in black abayas from head to toe – this is very typical of the way that men and women appear in public in this society. In the brutal heat of the summer, wearing black doesn’t seem very practical to me.


About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
This entry was posted in Clothing, Culture, Life, Photo, Saudi Arabia, Tradition and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Typical Dress

  1. amy says:

    Cannot imagine wearing the black in such heat! I don’t care if everywhere is airconditioned. Being outside without sweltering would be nice. Heck I don’t even wear black t-shirts with my shorts on hot days here in Canada. Just sucks the heat in.

    I love reading about your observations Susie and seeing your pictures. I must admit the society does make my blood boil at times as it is so male dominated!

  2. Sarah says:

    umm, due to the extreme heat in K.S.A you don’t normaly see people out “just walking” so if a women wanted to go somewhere she would get into the air-conditioned car then into the air-conditioned whatever she is going to. so she shouldn’t get that hot. and even if she did that’s okay because she isn’t wearing it with out a purpose. as for sun exposure uhh, we have yards (i don’t know what they’re called in English =P).

    i think i agree with some of what Chiara wrote.

    • Hi Sarah – Thanks for your comment. I grew up in Arizona and lived in Florida for 15 years before moving to Saudi Arabia two years ago. Arizona and Florida are both oppressively hot, like Saudi Arabia, but people there are able to enjoy life outdoors because they can dress appropriately for the weather. Women in KSA can’t.

      • Chiara says:

        Sarah–good points, and yes people in Saudi (from what I’m told) have inner courtyards (traditional Arab style architecture), which are private to the home dwellers, and private backyards (more Western style). So with all due attention to skin health and beauty women could take in the sun privately. Do they?

        The mechanisms of depression I listed are general for everyone. The WHO does excellent international studies on mental health as does the NIH (US National Institutes of Health), proving that we are all very much the same with variations in cultural and genetic detail only.

        I always find that reassuring, and admire Bill Clinton for pointing out repeatedly that human DNA the world over is the same, with an extremely small percentage of variation.

        Susie–the contrasts in “handling the heat” must be so dramatic for you when on “home leave”. 😦 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        i think that’s because you’re American. and everyone knows Americans love the outdoors. which is the oppisite of here nobody likes to go out except in Winter and to the beach.

  3. Countrygirl says:

    I’ve read that in KSA and other places where women are forced to go around with a sack, tent (and I agree with you about the color) there are illness bound t the lack of vitamin D because no part of the skin are exposed to the sun.

    • From what I understand, depression is common among women in KSA and it can partly be attributed to lack of Vitamin D/no exposure to the sun. It also affects the bones and other health issues as well.

      • Chiara says:

        I agree, and the mechanisms of depression are many fold–restrictions on realizing personal and social(including career) goals, on socializing with peers (who may include men), lack of exercise (natural endorphins,physical stamina, strength, and energy), decreased melatonin (sun through eyes to pineal gland) resulting in depressogenic hormone imbalances, and disturbed sleep-wake cycles, etc.

        I also agree with your above comment about the challenges of wearing dark full covering, and can only offer the remind of what you know: only when necessary and NEVER polyester.

  4. saudi says:

    I can’t see any problem in our cloths(normally made from cotton cool &comfy cloths) , we have air conditioner every where.
    I tried to wear “Neck Tie” one day I can hurt my self if I don’t know the right way to wear it , vary funny and dangerous :):):)
    try to ask about any things in saudi arabia before talking about it ….. you can’t know every things with spy cam :):):)

    • I have asked many people in Saudi Arabia WHY the women all wear black and I have never gotten a satisfactory answer. Black absorbs heat. I’m starting to think that women wear black here so they will be less inclined to go out – period – and that’s the way men want it. As a woman living in KSA now, I personally find the wearing of black in the heat to be unhealthy and much hotter than it should be for women. What exactly should I be asking?

      • Chiara says:

        The best explanation I have heard/read about the “basic black” is that is provides the best cover of whatever is or is not underneath, and is the most unadorned. An older friend said to me she always thinks of the nuns in full habit that she was raised with when she sees a muslimah in head to toe black. Perhaps it is the colour of religious conservatism for many. eg. in Iran though not required a black chador is seen as the most religious cover, rather than the permitted dark blue, dark green, dark brown, beige, grey.

      • Whatever the reason for wearing black, in the heat of Saudi Arabia, it is impractical and downright cruel to expect women to wear it. I have literally almost passed out a couple of times…

      • dina little says:

        Not all catholic nuns where black, some where blue and/or black(dominicans) white(Carthusian and Sisters of charity), brown(Carmelites and Franciscans)and black and grey are normally worn by monastics, but it really depend on the order and the climate they live in. Southern nuns/ monastics will where the lighter colors.

  5. Jerry M says:

    I pity the woman.

    Also, I cannot imagine how the man’s headdress can be practical for driving nor the long dress for getting in and out of cars. American clothing has changed over the last generation or so because we are in cars all the time (think how much shorter winter coats are than they were 60 or 70 years ago). Doesn’t anyone in Saudi Arabia think practicality when they dress?

    • I’ve thought the same thing, Jerry. When I was younger, I had really long hair and many times it would get in my way when I was driving or getting in or out of a car, or get entangled in something, etc. I have seen many men driving with the headdress wrapped up around their heads or folded toward the back, but then others drive with the headdress the normal hanging down way too. I think that the people here are comfortable wearing what they do, even though Westerners might not see it as practical or comfortable.

  6. Bill B says:

    I agree with you but, I wouldn’t organize a protest march;too hot.

  7. Shelley says:

    It not only seems impractical, it seems oppressive. It would be pure torture for me. I can’t even imagine how horribly miserable it must feel. I would think that women would suffer health consequences…heatstroke? Dehydration? I’m sweating just thinking about it.

    Also, and this is just my Western viewpoint…but if you can’t be seen, does that make you feel like a non-entity, like you are invisible?

    • It is very hot, and I feel the black for women is impractical and unhealthy in a climate like Saudi Arabia has. In the hotter summer months, it is rare to see women outside. Personally dressing like that does make me feel like a non-entity, but I have heard other women say that they feel empowered because they are not being judged according to what they are wearing. It’s a whole different mentality than the way Western women think.

  8. Sneaky Susie of Arabia! Looks like a quick snap out the car window, non? Nice topical photo of thobes and abayas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s