How is freedom now in Saudi Arabia?

Mudassir Ali
Jan 20, 2020 03:12 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Jan 20, 2020 03:12 PM

I first went to live in Saudi Arabia in 1975. It was a completely different country then! Riyadh was very conservative. Matawas (the religious men for the prevention of vice) were all over the place, wielding their long sticks, ready to strike anyone who, in their opinion, was committing a sin or breaking a rule. Sometimes there were more matawas than people in the souk (the shopping area). They had as much power as the police and could have you arrested in a minute for anything. Everyone was wary of them, if not afraid.

My veil was so thick that I couldn’t see well and constantly had bruises from running into things. My mother-in-law chose my veil and it was 4 layers thick, while my sister-in-laws were only 2 layers thick. The Saudi women are beautiful and so graceful. I was such a klutz compared to them in that veil! My dresses touched the ground and covered my arms and went up to my neck. Our shoes did not show.

Women were not allowed in restaurants then. There was no where else to go…no cinemas, no concerts, etc. Sports facilities were for men only.

Education was not considered important for women, then. If any Saudi women worked, it was very few and then only as teachers in all girls schools or in an all women’s bank, etc. There were few opportunities.

For foreign women, they had to cover their hair with a scarf and wear the abaya over very modest clothing.

Now Saudi Arabia is like a different world! First of all, Prince Mohammed bin Sulaiman got rid of the matawas! Yay! The veil is disappearing. It is now a choice for women to wear it or not. I still choose to wear it when I visit. And last year, Prince Mohammed decreed that it is no longer necessary to wear the abaya, but most women, myself included, still prefer to wear it. For foreign women, this means they only have to dress modestly.

Women and men go to cinemas, concerts, plays, sports arenas and facilities, etc. Women can not only work, but they can own the businesses. They can also drive too. They can wear a long dress or the latest fashions from Europe.

The freedom of today is incomparable to the lack of freedom years ago. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Saudi Arabia is changing so quickly. It is a beautiful country with wonderful, kind and generous people. I’m so lucky I was able to watch the changes and growth. I ? SA

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