Restaurants in Saudi Arabia have banned the entry of single women. Signs that read, ‘Women not Allowed’ have been posted outside restaurants in the cities of Riyadh, Medina, Mecca, and Dearborn. First reported by The Daily Mail, the ban is a result of Saudi women’s ‘mentally unstable behavior such as flirting, smoking, and using mobile phones.’
Unchaste behavior by women, who by Saudi law must be accompanied by a husband or male relative, can cause big problems for restaurants. Mutawa, Saudi Arabia’s religious police, has a duty to uphold strict codes of conduct – they wield the power to force closure if a restaurant violates the rigid demands regarding women in public.
Abdul Baklava, manager of the Ruby Taboulehs Family Restaurant in Jeddah complains, “These women waltz in and ask for a carpet for one. Next thing you know they’ve made eye contact with a man, and all hell breaks loose!”
Understandably, Saudi restaurant owners are upset by this recent rebellious conduct, and will not tolerate any attempts by women to defy their societal role – which is equivalent to that of a mongrel dog. Women’s desire to live like dignified, post-medieval human beings is unacceptable, and seen as destructive to the civilized, utopian culture that men have fought hard to achieve.
Some blame the scandalous behavior on changes in current burqa fashion.
Mall of the Desert retailers have been selling the Bodacious Burqa line as part of their spring evening wear collection. But the modern, more utilitarian garments are creating problems…
For centuries traditional burqas have featured a tightly-woven, shuttlecock eye-grill, and no opening near the mouth – the Bodacious Burqa is made with thinner grill fabric, and a tiny hole for the mouth. “Perfect for that night out on the oasis or a quiet candlelit dinner for two (and five other concubines) at the tent.”
Now that women’s eyes are more visible behind the thinner mesh grills, an innocent blink can be interpreted as an illegal act of flirtation. Compounding the chance of social indecency is the design’s improved vision for the burqa wearer – women can now see and navigate cellphones, which can incite additional trouble.
The design’s revolutionary mouth-hole is just wide enough for a woman to enjoy an occasional cigarette. Tragically, the Bodacious Burqa fabric is an untreated linen/silk blend – highly combustible and prone to rapid ignition. (A future column will detail events related to smoking in burqas during scorching 118 degree desert sandstorms, and why the male-dominated burqa retail industry curiously refuses to flameproof the garments).
Despite the cultural uproar, the mod burqas are flying off shelves at popular Saudi merchants including Dolma & Gabana, Forever 21 Wives, and Abercrombie & Fez. Lucky ladies with a little pita in the oven have been snatching up expandable models at maternity-wear franchiser, A Chickpea in the Pod (includes tiny built-in mesh grill in breast area).
Thankfully for the single Saudi women who still insist on enjoying their baba ghanoush at a restaurant rug, an organization that calls itself Saudi Arabia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has asked a few restaurant owners to remove their signs.
Another positive note…it’s now been more than one full year since Saudi women were granted the right to ride a bicycle (but only in restricted ‘recreational areas,’ covered in full traditional garment, and accompanied by a man).
If the modern burqas become commonplace, some events, like one that occurred last December may be averted…A Saudi groom demanded a divorce on his wedding night when he saw his bride’s face for the first time.
By law men are not required to provide a valid reason for a divorce.