• Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Qatar!

    Qatar: Dhows in Doha Bay. Go Now!

    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in Saudi Arabia

WARNING: Terrorist threats linger in Saudi Arabia, please read this travel warning before going!

Behavior

How most Saudis behave and the expectations for how foreigners must behave is deeply rooted in the people's Islamic faith. Adult women are best off traveling to Saudi Arabia with their husband, father, or brother. Single women travelers are looked at oddly and traveling with a man who is not related or married to you is widely considered inappropriate. It is also improper for a man to touch a woman, even holding your spouse's hand or offering to shake the hand of a person who is of the opposite sex can be considered inappropriate to a conservative Muslim. In Saudi Arabia it is best to follow this recommendation so don't offer your hand to a local woman unless she does so first and avoid all physical contact with the opposite sex.

There are also some behavioral restrictions when it comes to dining as Islamic law forbids pork products and alcohol. However there is little worry about adhering to these rules since neither is available anywhere in Saudi Arabia. You should note that attempting to take either into the country is also strictly forbidden so don't try to smuggle any pork or alcohol into the country as punishments can be severe.

Dress

As a Muslim country, there are a number of religious laws which must be obeyed by everyone in Saudi Arabia and this conservative state begins with the dress. The men generally wear an all-white dishdash, which covers him from the shoulders to the feet. On their heads, men wear a red and white checkered cloth called a keffiyeh, which is generally loose-fitting and the bottom is often tossed over the top to be a bit cooler. Women in Saudi Arabia almost always wear black and their dress is called an abaya. Women cover their hair, as required by law, with a black cloth called a hijab, which is wrapped around their neck so only their faces can be seen. Although not a law, it is very uncommon to see a Saudi woman without her face covered, again with a black cloth called a niqab. Today this traditional dress is still the norm and it is very rare to see anything but this dress on the locals.

As a visitor to Saudi Arabia, foreign men are not required to imitate this local dress, although men are expected to cover up, meaning everything from the wrists and ankles up should be covered. Unlike foreign men, foreign women must dress in a like fashion as the locals and must cover their entire body; although it is not a law to cover your face, it is very strongly encouraged and many foreign women find it more comfortable since not covering one's face tends to receive a huge number of odd looks. It's important to note that women must cover their hair by law.

This page was last updated: December, 2013