Dress Code in Saudi Arabia | ExpatWoman.com

Dress Code in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabia government tend to be strict for the Saudi nationals but allow some leeway for expats.

Posted on

26 September 2013

Last updated on 26 November 2018
Dress Code in Saudi Arabia

Expats might be a bit nervous about what to wear in Saudi Arabia with the knowledge about how strict the Kingdom. Most people are however stressing themselves out for no reason as it is quite easy to fall into the new dress code, you just need to follow a couple of basic rules. Here are some guidelines on Saudi Arabia attire.

The Dress Code in Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia law and is quite strict. It is unacceptable for Saudi nationals to disregard the dress code and while expats are given some leeway, especially within their compounds, they are expected to follow the dress code when out in public.

For expats, men are required to wear long trousers and a shirt. Shorts, singlets and going topless are unacceptable for men and should not be worn in public at all. Expat men are not required to wear traditional attire.

SEE ALSO: The code of conduct in Saudi Arabia

It is the law in Saudi Arabia for expat women to wear an abaya when they are out in public. The abaya should cover their everyday clothing. EW recommends that women wear respectable clothing under their abaya in the form of a long loose-fitting skirt or trousers and a top that covers the shoulders and midriff.

Traditional dress code in KSA

The Saudi men wear a traditional dress called the thobe. It is usually white in colour and is pristine and very well ironed. Saudi men take pride in their clean and pressed thobes. This item of attire is perfectly suited to the desert climate. During winter, some Saudi men wear wool thobes in darker colours. Men also wear a head dress that consists of three items; the taiga, a small white hat that keeps the gutra, a large square cloth, in place. All this is topped off by the igal, a doubled black cord that holds the gutra in place. The headdress of a Saudi man is usually white or red and white checkers.

Dress Code in Saudi Arabia

Dress Code in Saudi Arabia for Women

Saudi women enjoy fashionable clothing and take great pride in their appearance; however in public the law of the land states that they should cover their everyday wear with a thick, opaque and loose fitting cloak that does not show off her body.

The strictness of the dress code in Saudi varies by region. Jeddah is seen as less conservative than Riyadh and there are different types of coverage depending on the implemented Purdah of that particular region.

Dress Code in Saudi Arabia for Women

Saudi Arabia women dress explained:

Abaya: The abaya covers the entire body and the veil covers the head and hair but the face is open and visible.


Burqa: this is a complete covering that covers a woman head to toe, including her hands and entire face, so that not even the eyes are visible.


Niqab: people often use the terms burqa and nigab interchangeably; however, the difference between the two is that the nigab has a small slit open for the eyes.


Hijab: this is the name given to the traditional head covering that is worn all over the world.


Chador: similar to a hijab, the chador covers the shoulders like a drape.


How to dress in Saudi Arabia’s compounds

If you are living in a compound in Saudi Arabia, specifically one aimed at westerners then life will be considerably easier for you. Within the compound, women don’t need to adhere to the dress code that applies to the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Here are however a few things to keep in mind within the compound:

  • Keep it modest. You can wear normal clothes but avoid shorts and skirts that are higher than your knees.
  • You need to wear shoes when entering buildings in the compound
  • Stick to one piece swimsuits. Bikini’s aren’t allowed.