Would I Return to Riyadh?

As the years pass, and my chances to return to the actual Riyadh remain firmly in front of me, I do not jump, and I do not plan. The actual Riyadh today holds little attraction for me. My one remaining friend still living there has not contacted me for years. I could get a Hajj or Umra visa, but I cannot imagine making that marathon airline trip for just a week or two, even for another chance to pray in Mecca.  

My other friend who now lives in the States but returns to Riyadh periodically (her husband is Saudi and they have relatives in the Kingdom) still wants me to come with her on her next trip.

Every time she returns to the United States from her semi-annual visit to the Kingdom, she tells me of the changes that have transformed Riyadh  into a city I would no longer recognize. Architectural changes have continued to alter the landscape, but some of the social changes leave me speechless. There are now movie theaters and musical concerts! Women are now allowed to drive! To see such things in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would make me question my sanity. Easier to comprehend are the changes in clothing– women’s abayas, specifically.

My friend has shown me images of the abayas that today’s women wear.  The long, flowing outer garment  now comes in colors, even white, of all things! White, traditionally, is the color of the man’s outer garment, not women’s abayas. How can those women wear white on their abayas and still feel feminine? How can anyone instantly distinguish men from women in a crowded market? 

 In our day, the color of abayas never deviated from  black, and the fabric was always synthetic or natural silk. They were sometimes decorated with black embroidery along the collar, black piping along the seams, and/or subtle variations in cut and style, but nothing more obvious. 

I would never want to see or wear abayas that flash colors other than black. In fact, if I ever return to the actual Riyadh for a visit with my friend, I will dig out my original abayas that are carefully folded in the corner of my closet. I never got rid of them, in case I ever return to Riyadh. 

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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4 Responses to Would I Return to Riyadh?

  1. qamar says:

    Still a Muslim?
    MashaAllah, -> great.

    • Marahm says:

      Wa aleikum as salaam! Of course I am still a Muslim, alhumdulillah! Thanks for asking. As a white American, no one expects me to be, become, or remain a Muslim.

  2. mycomment says:

    Saudi is changing like dubai uae.
    abaya in different colors than black in “saudi” is bad sign for purity of islam.
    theaters, music concerts, etc..
    i m sorry.

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