Here are all the places in Saudi Arabia that you don’t need to wear an abaya
22 May 2018| Last updated on 22 October 2018
Use our handy guide to discover the places you don't need to wear an abaya in Saudi Arabia as an expat.
Despite a number of changes that has been happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it can be rather challenging for western women to move to the country. Going from wearing whatever you want to, to having to wear an abaya and hijab whenever you leave your house can be a big culture shock for some.
Contrary to popular belief, however, there are some places in Saudi Arabia that women are not required to wear an abaya. At some of these locations it is legally allowed for you not to wear an abaya, but at others you will have to first assess the situation and whether it is a good idea or not to remove your abaya.
At this point, we need to also say that you will have to use your own discretion at the different locations. Be observant of your surroundings and the people who are in the vicinity. Also only remove your abaya if you are dressed modestly underneath – it is best to ensure that your elbows and knees are covered.
Here are some of the Abaya Free Zones in Saudi Arabia:
Saudi has got a large enough desert to go miles without seeing anyone around. It is thus safe for women to take their abayas off in the desert if there is no-one else around. A bit closer to the city, expat women are often seen removing their abayas in the Red Sand desert and Hidden Valley.
If you are a golfer then you will be very pleased to know that you cannot play golf in an abaya. Dirab and Riyadh golf clubs allows women to remove their abayas while they are playing.
The third floor in the Kingdom Shopping Centre is dedicated to women only. Women can walk around here without wearing an abaya and employees work in normal clothing. You will see both locals and expats walking around here without wearing their abaya or hijab.
Diplomatic Quarters in Riyadh
The Diplomatic Quarters (DQ) were originally created in the 1970’2 as accommodation for diplomats. Currently most of the embassies are located in the DQ. There are beautiful parks in the area that it is safe for women to remove their abaya’s.
Image Credit: @laviriyadh
Resorts, Istiraha and Other Rentals
Renting a Bedouin style tent or an Istiraha (A house that people visit over weekends to get away and relax.) is usually a safe area for women to remove their abayas and relax.
Women can explore all the deserted islands in Farasan Island without having to worry about the religious police. They are also free to remove their abayas after the Jeddah harbour.
Some restaurants do allow women to remove their abayas in the restaurant but it is recommended for women to first check with the manager before attempting to remove their abaya. Some restaurants have family rooms in which women can remove their abayas once the curtains are closed.
Faisaliah tower’s Globe Restaurant, Cigar Club and viewing platform also offers areas for women to remove their abaya. This is a great destination for a fun night.
If you enjoy horseback riding then you will be happy to know that the Dirab stables, the stables in DQ and the Riyadh Equestrian club are abaya free zones!
Jeddah and Al Khobar both have really beautiful private beaches where westerners can swim in their normal swimming attire without having to worry about offending the locals. It is recommended to call ahead of time and ensure that they haven’t changed the rules in the meantime and that they are open.
Compounds, especially western compounds, are usually an abaya free zone with some compounds even banning abayas completely! If you stay in a compound then rest assured that you can comfortably remove your abaya as most of the residents are predominant western and open minded.