A Women’s Life in Riyadh

working woman in antara

As a western woman, relocating to a country such as a Saudi Arabia may feel like a daunting prospect. There are still many misconceptions and bias when it comes to moving to a country with such a different culture. However, Saudi Arabia has made significant progress from the image people once associated with it.  

Beyond Misconceptions 

For starters, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have come a long way from what films or media would have us think. Women enjoy a great many rights that are not often evident from the media portrayal of Muslim countries. Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have evolved from what we may think of when the topic comes up. Nowadays, women are able to be themselves to a much greater degree, wear what they want, go where they want, drive what they want, purchase and own what they want and so many things we do –and should- take for granted. 
For example, there has been a steady increase in women’s employment over the past few years, and a gradual yet steady lifting of older, cultural and traditional customs and restrictions. Restrictions such as women being prohibited from driving have been lifted for half a decade now, and women are not required to sport an abaya and hijab in public areas anymore. 
There are several public activities that women might think are off-limits to them within Saudi Arabia, but that is not the case. Public activities such as hiking, shopping, hanging out with friends, going to the movies, sports, swimming, activity clubs and more are yours to explore. Not only that, but Saudi Arabia is also reportedly one of the safest countries to get around in, with both dedicated options of public transport that cater exclusively to women, such as Leena, as well as some of the safest streets for women to walk though. 

Navigating Saudi Norms

However, do be mindful that the modernization of Saudi Arabia is still a work in progress, and there are still some limitations regarding mixed male and female gatherings in certain contexts, especially in culturally significant or impactful ones such as religious spaces, public baths, and beaches. Staying informed of any potential restrictions ahead of time is the best way to avoid any potential awkward moments. 
However, none of these restrictions currently still active should worry you within expat compounds such as Antara, which strongly aim to provide an experience closer to the cultural norms you may be used to. 
There is no denying that moving into the modern era, there is still some ways to go until western women can feel entirely at home in Saudi Arabia, but there is also little doubt that there is a steady stream of change that will only keep getting better. 

two women enjoying lunch at antara