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Article Details

Women's Issues in Saudi and How to Adjust

by Expatguru - 01/20/2010

"This article describes the various issues faced by expat women and tips on how to adjust to those"

Much has been written in the media about Saudi Arabia and issues faced by women in the kingdom. Sadly, most of them are rather biased and from an outsider’s point of view. A strong understanding of the local culture and history would offer a different perspective. As an expat in Saudi Arabia for over 12 years, this author has had first-hand experience of the issues, particularly pertaining to expat women.

To begin with, one must understand that Saudi Arabia is a strict Islamic country following the Wahabi tradition. All women, including girls above 7 years, are required to cover themselves with 'Abaya' or the black gown. Non-Muslim women, however, are exempt from covering their heads/faces. Women are also prohibited from driving vehicles. While this may seem to be rather strange and even retrogressive for those not familiar with the kingdom, one must keep in mind the cultural and historical background in this region to have an insider’s perspective. These are ground rules which are applicable to all women in the kingdom, not just expats.

While it would be rather inconvenient initially for expat women, over a period of time people do get used to wearing the abaya. In fact, they would consider something amiss if they step out of the house forgetting to wear it. As long as you consider it as something similar to a school uniform, it would soon become part of your daily routine. The reason is simple. You are not alone and every woman on the road wears an abaya. You become the odd one out only if you don’t wear one.

The same reasoning applies to driving. While it is a fact that mobility becomes greatly reduced as women become totally dependent on their husbands, in a way it is considered safe in the kingdom to let men do the driving. Remember that this is a patriarchal social system in the kingdom. It is considered taboo for a woman to shake hands or smile at a stranger, but do remember that it has got more to do with the local culture rather than being unfriendly.

Only very few professions are allowed to be practised by expatriate women. Doctors, nurses, teachers and housemaids are some of those. Expat women have found innovative ways of keeping themselves busy. The advent of broadband in the kingdom has opened up a host of opportunities online. Taking private tuitions has become extremely lucrative and skilled teachers are in great demand.

Everything is in the mindset of individuals. So, just follow the simple rule “While in Rome, do as Romans do” and you would soon find yourself part of the mainstream of other expat women.

(10 Votes)

Views: 3911

9 comment(s)

Kira Dahman
Tuesday 11 May 2010, 1:49 pm
You forget to mention the fact that the Sharia is applied in Saudi. I honestly can´t understand how one wishes to live in a country where 100 metres down the road people are getting stoned to death, flogged or their limbs are amputated. I suppose this is also only a cultural specialty? Have you ever heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Most of these rights are permanently violated in Saudi-Arabia and no way of denying it. But I guess the payment´s good, and that seems to eradicate certain flaws for a lot of western people apart from the fact that most of them live in western ghettos anyway.

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