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Saudi woman turns heads as she walks through mall without abaya

Crown Prince hinted during an interview with CBS that the dress code may be relaxed

Saudi woman turns heads as she walks through mall without abaya
Jaloud is one of only a handful of women who have abandoned the abaya in recent months.Source:AFP

Her high heels clacking on marble tiles, a defiant Saudi woman turned heads and drew gasps as she strutted through a Riyadh mall — without a body-shrouding abaya.

The billowy over-garment, usually all-black, is customary public wear for women in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom, where it is widely seen as a symbol of piety.

Saudi human resources professional Mashael al-Jaloud, 33, walks in Western clothes past Saudis at the popular Riyadh mall. Source: AFP

Last year, ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hinted during an interview with CBS that the dress code may be relaxed, saying the robe was not mandatory in Islam.

But despite his sweeping liberalisation drive, the practice continued as no formal edict followed. Some women subsequently mounted a rare social media protest against the restriction, posting pictures of themselves wearing the figure-concealing garment inside out.

Despite the risk of provoking arch-conservatives, many others now leave their cloaks open in the front or wear them in bright colours. Mashael al-Jaloud stopped wearing the robe.

Saudi woman turns heads as she walks through mall without abaya
With her high heels clacking on marble tiles, a defiant Saudi woman turned heads and drew gasps as she strutted down a Riyadh mall. Source: AFP

The 33-year-old human resources specialist strolled through a mall in central Riyadh last week wearing nothing but a burnt orange top over baggy trousers.

In the crowd, there were audible gasps and arched eyebrows. Women veiled head-to-toe stared askance. Some mistook her for a celebrity.

“Are you famous?” asked a woman who sidled up to her.

“Are you a model?”

Jaloud laughed and said she was a normal Saudi woman.

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