Whether you are thinking about moving to Saudi Arabia or simply planning a visit, this guide will show you exactly what to wear and how to dress as a female in Saudi Arabia.
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Everyday women’s clothing in Saudi Arabia
The way that women in Saudi Arabia dress is rapidly changing and this is due to the new government’s perspective on the importance of cultural and social reforms.
Until recently all women in Saudi Arabia, whether Muslim or not, were obliged to wear an abaya (long loose dress) and a headscarf.
The Abaya is usually black but other colors were also allowed. The new rule is that the Abaya is not compulsory for women as long as they wear something modest that covers most of their body. However, the headscarf is no longer obligatory.
The new dress code has made it more comfortable for foreign women. But for most local women, the Abaya and headscarf are a representation of who they are and their religion and not necessarily a forced dress code. That’s why the majority of Saudi women still wear the abaya.
If you visit different cities in Saudi Arabia you may notice a change in Saudi clothing style. Cities like Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh have more modern styles and colored Abayas. Some women prefer not to wear an Abaya and headscarf at all.
In other cities, women still wear a full face veil where only the eyes are visible.
Men’s clothing in Saudi Arabia
Women aren’t only the ones that dress modestly in Saudia Arabia, men also do so. The traditional dress of men in Saudi Arabia consists of what it’s called Thobe, a full-length loose-fitting garment with long sleeves.
The preferred color of the Saudi Thobe is white but it can come in different colors such as beige, brown, blue, or gray. These colors are worn primarily in winter.
Another important element of the Saudi clothing style for men is the red and white head covering that’s called Shemagh.
Many Middle Eastern countries have their own Shemagh style as it is considered part of their Arabian heritage and a national identity for Arabs. However, some Saudi men have started to adopt western clothing styles and only wear the traditional Saudi garments for cultural and religious celebrations.
Local men in Saudi Arabia tend to avoid wearing a black Thobe as black is the color for women Abayas.
So, how to dress in Saudi Arabia as a female?
Even though the Saudi clothing requirements have changed, dressing modestly is still mandatory. Choosing carefully what you are going to wear in Saudi Arabia will hugely impact how your visit will go.
Yes, it’s not compulsory for tourists to wear an Abaya and head-covering but they should cover as much skin as they can. to not attract unwanted attention.
Cardigans can be a great alternative to Abayas but make sure you don’t wear very tight and revealing clothes under them.
Wearing short skirts, tight jeans, and revealing tops will create quite a spectacle in public areas. Instead, a loose outfit or dress that covers the shoulders, chest, and legs is highly recommended.
Foreign women can also go out in public with no scarf except to religious sites such as mosques but carrying a light scarf along, just in case is highly recommended.
When packing for your trip to Saudi Arabia you must take the weather into consideration. In summer, it gets extremely hot and that’s why clothes with natural materials such as cotton and linen will make you feel less hot and sweaty.
Another important thing when choosing your clothes for Saudi Arabia is to pick only opaque materials. No underwear should be visible through your clothes.
If you decide not to go for black then avoid flashy colors like red, yellow, and green that can attract a lot of unwanted attention. Instead, go for earthy and nude colors.
Our recommended women’s clothes for a trip to Saudi Arabia:
- Blue Women’s Embroidered Dubai Style Cardi Robe
- Mocha Women’s Maxi Cardigan
- Women Cotton and Linen Casual Maxi Shirt Dress
- Women’s Button Down Long Cotton Maxi Dress
- Kaftan Nightdress Beach Party
- Women’s Floral Print Long Sleeve Dress
Clothes for male tourists in Saudi Arabia?
Men visiting Saudi Arabia have a bit of flexibility when it comes to choosing their outfits. They should just avoid short and tight-fitted shorts, vests, and very skinny jeans in public places or religious sites. T-shirts for men are totally okay. However, pants and shorts shouldn’t be too tight or too colorful.
It’s important to know that some shopping malls don’t allow men with shorts to enter. The dress code for men might also be stricter at banks and government buildings.
Men can also choose to wear Saudi traditional clothes if they want. They don’t have to wear the whole traditional outfit with Shemagh and everything, but a white simple Thobe is enough.
Our recommended men’s clothes for a trip to Saudi Arabia:
- Men Long Sleeve Thobe
- Men’s Slim-fit Flat-Front Chino Pant
- Men’s Straight Fit Stretch Chino Pant
- Men’s Short Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt
- Men’s Short-Sleeve Crewneck Cotton T-Shirt
- Essentials Men’s Straight-fit Stretch Jean
Children’s clothes in Saudi Arabia?
For children, there aren’t really any rules with regard to what they should or shouldn’t wear. Girls under the age of puberty can wear dresses, shorts, or anything they want. However, after puberty, they are expected to dress modestly as well.
You may notice little Saudi girls wearing Abayas and headscarves, it’s not compulsory it’s just how some local families choose to dress their children.
When you dress your children in Saudi Arabia just take into consideration the weather in Saudi Arabia. Usually, lightweight clothes are the way to go but sometimes an extra layer is needed when entering shopping centers or indoor areas with blasting air conditioners.
Footwear in Saudi Arabia?
Similar to your clothes, your footwear will depend on the weather and activity planned in Saudi Arabia. When hiking, sightseeing, or doing anything that requires a lot of walking, both men and women need comfy and breathable walking shoes paid with good quality cotton socks.
Keep in mind that when visiting religious sites such as mosques you will be expected to remove your shoes.
Women can wear high heels if there is an occasion like dining out or attending a celebration. On casual hot days, flat sandals, shoes, and flip-flops can be worn.
Makeup in Saudi Arabia
There is no rule against makeup for women in Saudi Arabia. Women (not men) can wear makeup everywhere they want. But again it can draw some curious looks.
Jewelry in Saudi Arabia
Both men and women can wear jewelry in Saudi Arabia but modestly. I say hand jewelry like a ring, a watch, or a bracelet is okay to wear as long as it doesn’t contain any other religious symbols (other than Islamic symbols).
The same goes for clothes. Never wear anything in public that features symbols of other religions as it might offend local people.
Bikinis in Saudi Arabia
Now many private beaches and western compounds and villas with private pools are allowing bikinis and all kinds of beachwear. Every space has its own rules so make sure you know the dress code.
Choose modest swimwear and pair it with a coverup dress to use when you’re out of the water. Saudi Arabia is changing but it’s still an Islamic conservative country and its culture should be respected as much as possible.
Gender-Neutral dress codes in Saudi Arabia
Like in many countries across the world, there are clearly distinct dress codes for males and females in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, in Saudi Arabia, men are not allowed to wear any articles of clothing that are considered female and vice-versa.
Important tips about clothing in Saudi Arabia
- No matter what you do, don’t forget to wear sunblock and carry your sunglasses
- Always carry a lightweight scarf (for women)
- The key to a Saudi dress code is modesty. As long as you dress modestly you will be okay.
Saudi Arabia is a nation in flux. Nothing reflects this change more than the way people express themselves through their clothing. However, Saudi Arabia is still an Islamic state whose people are strongly devoted to their religion and customs.
People traveling to Saudi Arabia now have more freedom with regard to the way they dress, within the limits of the general norms and customs of society. As a tourist, the last thing you want is to be harassed by security or have a random old man shouting at you in the street.
If you follow the dressing guidelines outlined here, you will surely have a great trip to Saudi Arabia wherever you choose to go.