There are plenty of large and fancy shopping malls located in Jeddah, but the biggest and most extravagant are the ones in the northern part of the city where most of the wealthy families live. A couple of these malls happen to be near my daughter Maryam’s home, so she goes there for grocery and other shopping. With seven children and ten mouths to feed at home, you can imagine that Maryam has to shop frequently, and she’s quite familiar with the grocery stores and clothing shops and the types of customers in the malls. I’ve questioned her extensively about the malls, and Maryam has reported to me concerning the goings-on there.

Within the last couple of years, a new phenomenon has arisen in these northern area malls. Teenage girls have begun roaming the malls in groups, and these girls, shockingly, are without hijab. They wear tight-fitting coats made of light and often see-through cloth, and they let these coats hang open down the front so that their decorated shirts and tight-as-skin jeans can be seen by all passersby. These girls do have scarves, but they wear them draped around their necks and hanging down their fronts. On their heads? Never! The girls hang out in gangs and you can be sure that they’re wearing full makeup and talking and laughing loudly in order to attract the attention of similarly roaming boys.

In addition to these teenagers, college students are also flocking to the malls to see and be seen. There is a fairly new private medical school located quite near to one of these malls, and the medical students come to the mall with their white “doctor” coats, the girls again with full makeup and no scarves except those hanging down their fronts. These scarves are mere accessories to the girls’ outfits. The college students, as opposed to the teenagers, are always in mixed groups, male and female. The girls are walking leaning against the boys and often with their heads on the boys’ shoulders. The boys often walk with their arms over the girls’ shoulders.

These sights are extremely shocking to us here in this country, the birthplace of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) and where the official religion is Islam. I’m almost at a loss for words to describe our feelings. What happened to any sense of modesty? Where is the decency here? What has happened to the twelve years, more or less, of Islamic studies and reading Qur’an that these students have gone through to reach this stage? Whatever they’ve studied has gone in one ear and out the other. I can only imagine this situation going from bad to worse. I cringe at the thought of what the generation after this one might be like. May Allah help all of us.

                                                                                                                                  Susan Akyurt

Susan Akyurt has lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband for the last 31 years. She has four daughters, one living near her in Jeddah and three living in the DC metropolitan area. She loves reading, writing and corresponding with her family

  • Aishah

    Asalaamu Alaikum

    It sounds like these are reverting back to the time of Jahiliyah.

  • mamabear2010

    While I understand and share your concern for deteriorating levels of modesty in our communities, I think Saudi Arabia is somewhat of a special case. Such manifestations will shock/surprise people living there because of the extreme imposition of a specific dress code and way of life on the general public. When you pressure individuals and limit their freedom to express themselves in many other ways, they will find ways to rebel against the system. The way individuals are forced to dress, interact, move, and do things in KSA defies human nature, and I don’t think that is what Allah swt and our Prophet pbuh asked us to do to spread the message of Islam.

    Malls in the Gulf are one of the few spaces where teens can go to have a good time. They have very limited other options. That is not to say that such a trend is not visible in more open countries such as Egypt or Jordan. But at the same time, it is balanced by many other young Muslims who are active politically, religiously, professionally and are able to express themselves in many more ways than just by the way they dress.

    Also, I wouldn’t put much weight on what they learned for 12 years in school. I studied the Saudi Arabic & Islamic curriculum and I’m sure I would not have been influenced by it independently if I did not grow up in a religious family and community. The Islamic education system is outdated, rigid, and irrelevant to the real issues that impact the lives of young people. It probably does more of a disservice to their religious knowledge than anything else.

    Finally, it’s in the interest of the governments (although they claim otherwise and pretend to ally themselves with the religious establishment) to keep young people focused on materialistic things. Otherwise, the youth would then begin to wonder why they are lacking the rights that billions of other people enjoy and that would spell disaster for the Gulf sheikhdoms.

    I wouldn’t blame the teens you are describing. I blame the dysfunctional system they are forced to live under.

  • thanaya asgher


    i agree with sister aishah… believe me sister susan its my dream to have an oppurtunity of living in Saudia just because i earnestly love arabs for being the nation our Prophet(s) belonged to; and for being the upholders of islamic laws, beliefs and teachings; and for being servants and custodians of the Harmain Shareefain. but my husband always tried telling me that instead of praying for a few years in saudia i shd just ask Allah swt for eimaan no matter where i live, be it the west or the Middle East or where i belong to- Pakistan. after reading ur account of the affluent malls and the youth going crazy i now believe my husband is right when he says we shd just live and die with eimaan no matter what place on earth we are living on… the positive aspect of ur writing is that u could combine with a group of ladies and conduct a drive against these trends amongst the youth… since you’re living there maybe you and other women could help the youth… we cannot raise fingers, we all shd pray for Allah swt to guide them and try to help them somehow as well! jazakAllah for brringing this to our knowledge. tc

  • blessed

    thank you for sharing. i believe that ppl are in different positions in their life, and one way of bringing them closer to Allah SWT is to speak differently on these matters. many times, we make a big deal of hijab, but we forget that these ppl might not be praying, or reading qur’an, or even fasting Ramadan. if those basics aren’t in place, hijab makes no sense for these women.

  • Susan

    Jazakum Allah khairan for all of your insightful comments. I have been puzzling for a long time about what might cause these young people to act this way, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the main causes are lax parental supervision and a disdain for Islamic values. These girls and boys, who are from the wealthier citizens, feel that they can get away with anything as long as their “hearts are pure and white.” We hear this type of comment often. “But my heart is pure.” You won’t see this behavior in the middle and lower income families. I think there are too many wealthy children raised by nannies. Don’t be afraid to come here now, just stay away from the posh malls.

  • Sister

    As Salaama Alaykum,

    Why don’t you do something about it?

    Why not create events or some type of halal activity for them to attend.

    So many times youth want to have something to do on a Friday night or weekend.

    Why not take a step up insha Allah.

  • ABCDlivinginKSA

    The resorts are even worse!! A big shocker for me….

    Parents. Where are you? I wonder? Smoking? Similar activity? Mecca? Madina? Dubai? Etc.

    It’s all about choices. We as adults have the right to make our decisions and then of course pay the consequences of THat decision. As in the USA years of youthwork u can see the results of the choices we all made and saw our friends and families make…. BUT what did WE do about it??