When we decided to shift to Saudi Arabia, the first thing my husband was concerned about me having to wear an abaya (burkha). Though I had no qualms about wearing one, certain degree of disappointment was lingering around. The disappointment slowly turned in to frustration when I realized I can't show off my fancy clothes in fancy restaurants. However, I had to gulp this fact hard as I am here to stay!!!!
I had done my abaya shopping in Udupi before my first trip to Jeddah. I had taken the help of a friend and bought a very simple, black colour abaya without a scarf or what they call it here, hijab (covering head with a hijab is not compulsory for expatriates in Jeddah). I had picked up the least expensive one paying 2000 rupees. There were some more cheaper ones but they lacked quality. My first abaya was definitely not stylish, but for me it served its purpose.
Last year when I was travelling to and fro Jeddah multiple times, my simple black abaya came handy and I just did not feel the need of buying one more. But after I shifted to Jeddah this year, I started observing women in Saudi Arabia and their abaya designs closely. In Saudi Arabia, especially in Jeddah, women can wear colour abayas; not gaudy ones though!!! I wonder what Mutaween (Islamic religious police who makes sure all the rules are followed properly) will do if they spot a fluorescent abaya!!! So, like I was saying, women can wear abaya of different colours like blue, brown, cream, white, grey and some lighter shades of pink, purple, etc.
I have already bought two new abayas with hijabs - blue with lace and brown with front zip since this year January. But the interesting part is, in spite of paying in riyals, I have paid lesser money compared to India. For the blue one I paid 65 riyals (1103 rupees) and for the brown one I paid 85 riyals (1442 rupees). Like India, shopping in malls is very expensive. Even a simple abaya would cost nearly 1000 riyals (approximately 17K INR) but shopping in local streets of Jeddah saved me a lot of money.
Al-Balad is the historical area of Jeddah which flaunts its market along with the UNESCO heritage site. Most of the shops are owned by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis (or maybe I visited only their shops) and Arabs. As most of the shop owners spoke in Hindi, my first shopping experience in Jeddah was not bad. However, finding a colour abaya with a front zip was a difficult task (as most of them doesn't have a zip) but I enjoyed every bit of wandering around the streets of Balad.
The different shades and designs of abaya made me feel like buying every single piece!!! I had never seen so many colours of abaya and that too in so many styles. I understand donning an abaya all the time can be less colourful for women from other countries but come and have a look at the vast collection of abayas, you will definitely fall in love with it. Most importantly, wearing an abaya is also very comfortable with an added advantage of going to supermarkets in sleeping pants!!!
I am definitely looking forward to some more abaya shopping and will upload pictures of Al-Balad market then (I did not have enough time to click pictures last time!!!!).
PS : All the images are downloaded from different sources via google!!!!