The Saudi Cultural Robe and Adolescence

Kawther AlKhudairy


All women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear an abaya. This article examines the effects this cultural robe may have on the identity formation of women living in Saudi Arabia. Research was conducted over a two-month period. It entailed a questionnaire provided to 25 girls and women living in Saudi Arabia. Further interviews were carried out with 11 respondents out of 25. The respondents were of different nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Anthropological works were consulted in order to introduce a number of hypotheses that aim to explore how the girls and womens identities might be shaped by the wearing of this garment. The first suggested idea is that the abaya represents a marker of transition from childhood into adulthood for women. Moreover, the reinforcement of gender roles and the confusion between sex and gender as a result of wearing the abaya are introduced. The possibility of the robe helping women attain more confidence is suggested. The question about whether the abaya takes away part of a womans individuality is explored. Finally, the effect the robe may have on cultural and social identity amongst women is introduced.

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