Sunday, January 18, 2009

How about abaya allowances?

LIVING outside Saudi Arabia and only visiting twice a year, now that I am studying in the United Kingdom, I adapt and get used to many different things.

One of those new experiences is leaving my flat each day not wearing an abaya. Now that I have lived in Newcastle for more than a year, the thought of putting on the abaya rarely occurs to me. And when I pack my bags to visit my family in Madina and Jeddah I have to post a note on the mirror of my dresser telling me to pack it.

I made the mistake when I left for the UK in September 2007 to give away all my lovely abayas. I kept one for my visits, but when my maid saw it once she asked me if she could use it as a cleaning rag. Not being a dummy I took that to mean I should buy a new one.

So out to the store I went with my SR700 in my purse looking for something fashionable and to keep with my newly acquired social status as Dr. Jawhar in the making. After all, if I am going to earn a doctorate degree and become indispensable to Saudi Arabia then I must dress the part. But, oh, how sadly I was mistaken.

How sadly I am out of date. Imagine the humiliation when the salesman knew more about abaya styles than I. Imagine him telling me what the girls are wearing today. I felt like an old lady who hasn’t left the house in decade.And imagine, if you will, the shock I felt when I saw the price tags.

I can almost see the salesman smirking at me with my little SR700 clutched in my sweaty little hand.I discovered, not from my sisters, my nieces or even my mother, but from Mr. Sales Expert that abaya fashions have changed dramatically. Back in the olden days, say like 2005, you can have any abaya you wanted as long as it came in black.

If you were daring, perhaps a little embroidery on the sleeves. But that had to be in black as well. Now there are all sorts of glittery stuff: sequins, bits of red and blue, and clasps that looked like sapphire.And apparently those fashionable girls over in the UAE are teaching the Saudi girls a thing or two about how to wear one.

The hem drags on the ground and if you have it open to the knees, well, then you are the cat’s pajamas (a Western expression for looking cool).That’s all fine for the young girls and I want to be as fashionable as the teenager standing next to me at the Serafi Mall, but with such fashion comes a hefty price.

SR700 doesn’t do it anymore. SR1000 apparently buys me the cleaning rag my maid wants. So if I truly don’t want to embarrass myself in public with a plain grandmother-style abaya, then I must spend SR1,500 or SR2,000 to not only look respectable but not make a fool of myself.

I want to go to the mall looking my best, but I don’t want to go to the mall as poor as a basement mouse.Since I am required to wear the abaya, and you will never get any complaints from me about wearing one, the least the Saudi Government could do is subsidize the expense.

Saudis are generous by nature. They give aid to refugees. They build cultural and religious centers worldwide. They provide meaningful jobs to hundreds of thousands of Saudis. And they have sent me off to get a higher education.

The Saudi Government’s generosity can be limitless.So why not an abaya allowance? Why not chip in SR1,000 for my SR2,000 abaya. Saudis don’t want their national treasures walking around in dish rags. Don’t they want us to outshine those Emirati girls across the border? It doesn’t even have to be cash. A voucher will do? My name on a discount list at Sami’s Abaya Emporium on Tahlia Street will be just fine.


Foxxi said...

*LOL* great post.
When I visited Qatar, I was shopping in the big city-center-mall in Doha. I passed by a shop where (very exclusive) abayas were sold. Although I'm not really a fan of this "dresscode" the window-decoration was fantastic (at least I like black clothing). One abaya was (certainly) black but with a shiny blood-red shimmer ...well it looked great.
I instantly called my girlfriend and asked her if she could imagine wearing something like this (we're Germans, so there are not so many ocassions to wear abayas) but she refused. Fortunately for me, because this fascinating piece of cloth cost a fortune

Anonymous said...

Shocked!! Sister in Islam, instead of defending Hijab in the West, instead of taking high the banner of Islam and calling people to it, you are leaving it and you don't feel any shame to even openly express about it?!! You are joining the West to play down the importance of Hijab?!
You don't feel any guilt of not wearing Hijab, instead you write openly about it?!
I have no words to express, except feel sorry for you. Because no matter how much you all try, Islam will be victorious. But people who are being tested by Allah in these times of Fitan, their future depends on whether they stuck on to the truth or went on to the path of Shaitan.
And all respite and enjoyment and liberty is temporary!

Ameera Khan said...

No wonder that Westerners attack Muslims and accuse them of being vulgar because this is how we represent ourselves. When one of us makes a mistake we attack him or her using the worst words on earth while we simply let go any Western assault.
I read this article twice and found nothing against Hijab. On the contrary, the writer is reflecting her love and commitment to her Hijab. What she is criticizing is the exaggeration in prices and the use of this religious ritual as a commercial good and fashion wave. However, I don't blame the readers. I think this young lady is a victim of her own high literary style that goes far beyond her readers understanding. BTY, Abaya is not an equivalent to hijab. The lady did not say she doesn't wear Hijab in Newcastle but for sure, she doesn't wear Abaya which is a 100% Saudi invention. Please read her last two columns in the Saudi Gazette archive then apologize for this harsh criticism.

Anonymous said...

Imagine my surprise after reading the comments on your blog and in the Saudi Gazette the anger and hatred you provoked over your funny column about the abaya. What is striking to me is the number of men who have completely lost their temper over an article that basically discusses the styles and high prices of the abaya. There is no mention of the hijab, but like the person who has written to you earlier, they seem to think the abaya and the hijab are the same thing. One look at the photo that goes with your column would tell anyone you are an honourable Saudi and Muslim girl who follows your religion. It's sad that our fellow Muslims are so quick to anger or a simple, but humourous, complaint that the cost of abayas are too high.

Abdullah Hendi said...

Hehehe! Ameera Khan... Abaya is a Saudi invention?!! LoL!! That's the biggest joke I've heard.
Abaya is an overcoat. Abaya, Jilbab, and the cloak covering from top are all part of what Allah said in the Quran

"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e.screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allâh is Ever Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful."
(Al-Ahzab 33:59)

What do you say about that verse Ameera? As for covering of the face, the ikhtilaaf goes back to the Sahabah. Ayesha radiyallahu anha said when the verses of hijab came down the women of ansar tore cloths and covered their head and faces and would come and go to the masjid unrecognized. Some scholars say covering face is recommended (mustahhab) and others say its obligatory (Wajib).
No classical scholar has ever said it is haram to cover face, rather they recommended it.

And read the 31st verse of Surah Noor and see the proof yourself. Read some classical tafseers like ibn kathir and qurtubi to know about this.

I see when ur saying Abaya is separate from Hijab, ur either ignorant or ur trying to create a new fitnah of defining Hijab in a way no scholar has ever defined. May be u just want hijab to be a tight headscarf wrapped around the head with wearing all tight clothes?
That's not Hijab. If u want to say something about Islam Ameera, then LEARN before u say!!

Foxxi said...

@Abdullah Hendi

the verse from Quran you stated above reminds me of something that people used to say 40-50 years ago in the west when women started wearing short(er) skirts. When a woman was raped than everybody was quiet quick in saying: "Yes, no wonder, with clothes like this it's like provoking rape". Implying, if she would have been dressed in "proper" clothing no rape would have been done or better "dressing correct avoids rape".

From that point of view (and with your detailed interpretation in brackets) you're obiviously right.

(... I get sick over the way people still think nowadays)

Today nobody will ever talk like this anymore because in the meantime something happend which we (roughly) call development.

But I understand, that people like you, who are still living in the middle ages will never develop or better evolve anything!

Abdullah Hendi said...

@ Foxxi

Now I should get lessons about Islam from a non-Muslim?!
First the brackets are the interpretation of classical scholars Tafsir Ibn Kathir/Qurtubi, not mine.
And even without the brackets the meaning is clear. And even more clearer through the narrations of the Prophet.
Allah protected our religion so that people like u later on wouldn't come to corrupt it!
Call it middle ages if u want... that is Islam.. and I and along with me a billion more submit to it because it is the word of God.
Moreover.. everyday more and more of ur modern day western people especially women are accepting this 'middle age' religion. See reports from CNN/BBC/FOX if u want.
I don't do a lot of talk. The facts are overwhelming and they do the talk for me.

Lost.In.Riyadh© said...

LOOOOOL... I feel you! We should positively get an 3baya voucher!!! Now how can we make this a reality? :)


Anonymous said...

i'm with you all the way on this one sister,SR 2000 for the daily abaya is much too much...and if i wanted an evening abaya....oh lord you do not want me to post how much those are going for these days!! however i was kind of shocked that you thought the coloured abayas and the endless designs are a post 2005 invention. back in 1996 we were blue jeans sporty looking abayas to our school, we've had black embroidery since god knows when and we had gazillion designs (including trench coat style, oriental inspired, military style and coloured scarves) since i was 12 (i was born in 1981, jeddawia)...i don't know about the rest of saudi but here in jeddah we were stylish long before the UAE girls suddenly were the "benchmark" of abaya fashion (UAE, love you like my own family...but come on!)
personally, the styles i've seen in UAE were too 'loud' for my taste but i liked that a lot of them were inspired by the arabian culture and very traditional nomadic lines...just tone it down a bit.