Saudi women revives the fashion of sports abayas

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A sports-friendly version of the abaya gown was once considered a symbol of cultural rebellion in Saudi Arabia, but it is fast becoming the new normal.

The pictures of women wearing sports abaya in red sea city of Jeddah were circulating all over social media. It triggered a new debate regarding the freedom of women in Kingdom. A state where the typically all-black, body-shrouding garment is obligatory in public.

sports abaya

Some far extremists went fury on internet, calling it a against their religious and cultural values, but opposition has been largely muted following recent remarks from powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the abaya — any abaya — is not mandatory in religion.

Until any formal verdict come from any official, the designer of the sports abaya Eman Joharjy is cashing on the new growing popularity of its. The designer of this dress code talking to the local news agency said “There is a big demand for sports abayas. Having them in different colours is empowering”.

Sports Abaya
Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/

One of the pioneers of the trend, Joharjy shared that she was branded a social outlier and jeered by some as “batman” when she began designing and donning sports abayas publicly in 2007.  “There was a little bit of rebellion but I designed it for myself, because it’s practical.” she said.

The new wave of liberalization in the kingdom has given the new hope to all the liberals in the state. A historic royal decree allowing women to drive and enter sports stadiums for the first time was applauded by many around the world.

Joharjy even mentioned that,  “Abaya is like the Indian saree, it is part of our identity.”

What do you think on this recent wave in the kingdom? Let us know in comments below.




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Paras Waswani