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.
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