Westerners may wonder exactly how Saudi Arabia men's clothing differs from their own. While it may seem counterproductive to wear so much covering in such a hot climate, the clothing that Saudis wear provides protection as well as adheres to the more conservative customs of their homeland.
About Saudi Arabia Men's Clothing
One thing foreigners will notice when traveling in Saudi Arabia is how much of the body is covered, both for men and for women. To foreign visitors, where people's bodies are constantly on display, this may come as a shock, but in order to be welcomed as a foreigner, you should respect your host country's customs.
Saudi men typically wear a traditional dress called a thobe. This is a long, ankle-length, flowing robe-type garment which is usually white or light colored cotton in warm weather and darker colored wool in cool weather. Almost all Saudi men wear a thobe, regardless of their occupation or standing. For special occasions such as weddings, men don a bisht or mislah over their thobe. These are long cloaks in white, brown or black and are trimmed in gold.
One of the main differences between Saudi men's dress and that of Westerners is the unique headdress that the men wear. A Saudi man's headdress consists of:
- A tagiyah: This small white cap prevents the ghutra from slipping from the head.
- A ghutra: This is a large, square-shaped cloth, typically made of cotton. It's folded over the tagiyah; its ends can be used to protect the face in the event of sandstorms. It is normally white or red-and-white checked. Men fold them into a triangle shape before placing on the head.
- An iqal: This doubled black cord holds the ghutra in place.
While the long thobe and the head covering seem to be a lot of clothing, they're perfect for the hot, dry climate that Saudis live in. Because they experience sandstorms, these protective garments help keep Saudis from suffering damage due to the weather. In addition, the strict religious customs demand that Saudis dress with modesty.
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and the religion of Islam dictates that its followers adhere to a modest mode of dress. The garments that the native people wear haven't changed much in hundreds of years. It is the best attire for their climate, and adapts to their religious beliefs as well.
What Foreigners Need to Know
While visiting men in Saudi Arabia don't have the same strict dress codes that women are expected to abide by (although even foreign women are permitted some leeway), it's best to err on the side of caution to avoid offending your host country.
Western men will stand out if they choose not to wear the thobe. If you decide to not wear the native dress, it's wise to show respect by wearing modest clothing such as long slacks and shirts that completely cover the top half of the body. Gold is usually viewed as more feminine than masculine, so wearing it is frowned upon for men. If you plan to visit Saudi Arabia, you should research as much as possible to find out what Saudi Arabia men's clothing is acceptable, even for visitors.
While you're not likely to see many men dressed in traditional Saudi attire in the West, with the influx of immigrants and the mixing of cultures, more Westerners may see foreign ways of dressing when people try and hold onto their culture although they've left their native country. Respecting the differences in dress and customs is one way to ensure that everyone gets along.
Likewise, if you choose to visit the Middle East, respect that area of the world in your clothing and your demeanor. By understanding why Saudis wear what they wear and what each piece symbolizes, you can gain greater knowledge about a part of the world you didn't know much about before.