Saudi Shopping

I’ve moved to Saudi Arabia, a country boasting a wealthy population and one of the lowest percentages of women in the workforce. You don’t have to master Chinese Algebra to add up a lot of women with money plus free time to come up with some pretty amazing malls. Now before you shopaholics run out to buy a plane ticket over, there are some things you should know.

Traditionally, you see Arab women out in public covered head to toe in black. I’m not saying they’re wearing a cute black top and black pants with the idea that dressing monochromatically is slimming. The traditional attire is a loose-fitting abaya dress that covers from the neck to the wrist and down to the floor. While Western women typically don’t, Saudi women also wear a hijab to cover her head and many wear the niqab face veil revealing only their eyes. Now I’m not judging! I come from a culture that dresses its little girls in booty shorts and Victoria Secret underwear for their first day of Kindergarten. We’re hardly the ones to point fashion fingers.

But what an Arab woman wears to the mall isn’t necessarily what she wears behind closed doors. So let the shopping begin! These massive malls display clothing from some of the finest designer names. It’s easy to get lost in the choices… until you want to try something on. All those clothes and no dressing rooms!

If you find something you like, you purchase it first. Then take it home or hunt down a bathroom in the mall that might have a changing room, take off your abaya, hijab and niqab plus whatever you’re wearing underneath like shirt, jeans, shoes and try on, say, one pair of pants. Then put it all back on. You have 3 days to return the pair of pants for a cash refund or 7 days for a different size.

I think it’d take me 3 days just to get undressed and redressed with all that! It could potentially take a month, working through this back and forth and trying it on somewhere else stuff, to find the right size of pants. Factor another couple of months for a top to match. By then, forget about shopping! No outfit is that cute! Suddenly, I’m more than happy to go to the closet, pull out the black abaya and be done with it!

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