Abaya: love and hate
what is an abaya and what’s it like to wear one?
A woman recently got killed by her abaya because it was hanging outside the car door and got caught in the back wheel and strangled her instantly. I searched but couldn’t find it in the news, but then that goes for most events that happen in the kingdom. Since then women in the city have been vehemently warning each other when someone is seen driving away with their abaya hanging outside the car. While cautioning everyone, I would like to think this was a freak accident and most abayas are NOT out to kill you.
Murderous abayas aside, I, and I think all women here, have a love-and-hate relationship with our abaya.
For those of you who don’t know, an abaya is a loose-fitting black robe worn over our regular clothes when women in Saudi go out in public. Some of you may ask,what’s possibly there to love about this utterly unflattering garment and symbol of female oppression? If you ever walked down the street as the only woman (because most sane women with a choice would not choose to walk outside), and be blatantly gawked at by every man from Saudis, westerns, and third-nation workers (this reminds me, I should start an expat lingo glossary) alike as if you are in the buff AND have three heads… a part of you would suddenly wish to be made anonymous by a black robe and veil too. And on those days that you just can’t decide what to wear or don’t feel like getting out of your pajamas? Here’s your solution. I can’t tell you how much money I am saving by not having to buy new outfits because I almost always wear the same comfy tank top and leggings under my abaya.
But I don’t have to explain to a modern woman the inconvenience and restrictions that come along with having to wear these black things. First of all, you’ve gotta remember to wear/bring it whenever you go out. Sometimes after a long trip abroad in the ‘real’ world, the first day I head out to work or do some shopping I would revert back to old habits: pick up my purse and go. Somehow it’s never difficult to go back to not wearing them when I’m traveling or back home. Secondly, it’s not so bad now in the winter, but out of ten months of the year, you’d feel like you are roasting in a black tent. And not to mention the hazards of tripping over your abaya, getting caught on an escalator, getting strangled when your abaya gets caught in the wheel of a car, the sleeves get in the way at a meal, constantly having to worry about the buttons coming undone and god forbid you’d expose your sinful legs for the world to see… the list goes on.
At the end of the day, as much as we like to complain about it, the abaya is a part of life, and it does have it’s uses. And I have a new obsession with cool abaya designs (evident on my pinterest board One Abaya A Day) and drawing up my own designs for future abayas that I will one day make and wear proudly, in the kingdom that is 🙂