Carpetblogger loves to shop and we love a challenge! We are here to announce our discovery of an on-line store we've discovered that has everything for the fashionable AND modest woman!
And, for the woman who is neither but has to go to Saudi Arabia.
Like all business travel, this trip presents wardrobe-related logistical challenges for girls. To start with, it's not just Saudi, but includes Pakistan and Yemen as well. Both have slightly differing standards of female modesty. Second, it's August, which means it will be 150 degrees and humid in seaside Jedd-ah and tail end of monsoon in Islamabad. Sana'a sits at 7500 feet. The only way this trip could suck more is if it fell in September, which is Ramadan, and included a visit to Kabul. (Vigilant ancestors will be pleased to know the Afghanistan portion of the trip has been canceled out of security concerns).
Our current wardrobe, while completely appropriate for "consulting" from the couch in Istanbul, doesn't quite meet Wahabbist standards for female modesty or anyone else's definition of "professional" or "attractive." You'd think that, as a resident of a city that has one or two Muslims, we'd be able to find something suitable without a lot of effort. The Grand Bazaar is a good place to shop if you want to dress like a housewife from Fatih or like sequins. However, as it is hot, crowded and disorganized, shopping there demands substantially more effort than we wanted to devote to this project.
Our biggest clothes-related question has been "how much can we get away with?" Since Jedd-ah is the Berkeley of Saudi Arabia, an abaya may be optional (it isn't in Riyadh). It's difficult to articulate just how much we don't want to wear such a garment in summer Gulf heat. We understand that women do it all the time -- women who are not us. Last time we were in Pakistan, we purchased a shalwar and wore it all the time, not because we wanted to be respectful but because it deflected the attention of thousands of horny Pakistanis. We have no idea what to wear in Yemen, but assume something long and sack-like is expected.
Surely, the internets would have the answer to our problems.
We found The Desert Store and many problems were solved. The Desert Store is a Saudi-based on-line store offering "Islamic Clothing for the Family." I found their offerings to be both fashionable (well...) and reasonably priced! They provide the uniforms for Saudia flight crews (which I anticipate being able to assess personally), which established them, in my eyes, as a legitimate design house. And the chance to use a credit card to purchase on-line from a store in Saudi Arabia proved irresistible. The site is simple and well-organized and clearly written in a language recognizable as English. They promise delivery via DHL. There are helpful photos of management (all Saudi) and workers (all Southeast Asian). Their common characteristic appears to be a penis.
After scouring the site and resisting the temptation to purchase Miswak (alert readers will recall it was -- and still is -- our favorite flavor of toothpaste), we settled on two tunic blouses and a skirt that we are certain will keep the religious police off our infidel ass. We already own 5000 head-scarves so didn't purchase the Saudi-style chador, which, at $7.50 seemed like a real bargain.
So, should you find yourself in the position of having to find yourself some modest clothing for your next trip to the Gulf, we highly recommend The Desert Store.