Al Khobar is far different from open countries where people, including tourists, can wear what they want. It is a conservative, Muslim city, where wearing of inappropriate clothes can offend their beliefs and result to serious punishments. If you are not sure with what to wear in Al Khobar, here’s a brief overview.
The abbaya is the primary clothing of women in Al Khobar, which covers the entire body except the hands, face, and feet. It is a loose-fitting, full-length garment with long sleeves, and is usually black with embroideries of different artworks. Common fabrics used for the abbaya include chiffon, crepe, and georgette.
Traditional abbayas are worn with face veil or niqab. This covers the hair and the face leaving only the eye area open. By the way, there are also some niqabs that cover the entire face, and this is undoubtedly strange for some Westerners. Majority of the women in Al Khobar wear the abbaya with the niqab on, although there are also a few who choose not to. If you are a non-Muslim, you may also choose not to wear the face veil. However, since it is possible for the religious police or muttawas in the city to stop and speak to you anytime for not wearing one, it is best if you keep a scarf in your bag all the time.
When you visit Al Khobar, make sure to have an abbaya ready. You don’t have to wear it while still inside the plane, but have it prepared so you can easily put it on when you land at the airport. It is much better to wear it at the soonest possible time in order to prevent getting the attention of the muttawas.
When in a public place, women should be more careful with what they are wearing. This applies to all, including expats. You can’t wear Westerners clothes outside of your compound, however, you can wear anything under the abbaya. You may choose to wear sleeveless and short pants underneath, it’s up to you. But don’t try to wear the abbaya without anything on. Though people will not notice that you are naked underneath, the muttawas can tell.
What about the footwear? Some women Muslims who are very devoted with their beliefs wear socks. But generally, women can wear anything they want. You can wear flip flops, stilettos, boots, rubber shoes, or anything that will make you feel comfortable. Some women in the city even have their toenails painted.
On the other hand, men have nothing much to worry about what to wear in Al Khobar. Most men in the city wear thobe, which is a long, flowing robe-like garment. It is usually in white especially during warm weather, while can be in darker colors in cold months. They also wear a large, square cloth (ghutra) on their head which is under a small white cap (tagiyah), or a doubled black cord (iqal) to prevent it from slipping.
If you have no idea what to wear in Al Khobar and you are caught wearing inappropriate clothes, you may be brought to their station, but most of the time, they will only speak to you to warn you. If you are with your husband, they will speak to him instead of you. It is like your fault will be his as he is letting you wear clothes that are against their conservative beliefs.