Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  • Date
  • 20 November 2000

Shopping in Saudi Arabia is a vastly different experience. No women work in any of the shopping centers – not at the cosmetics counters, shoe section or lingerie area – except for a few non-Saudi nationals working as cleaning women in the female toilets. And there are a handful of ‘female-only’ shopping malls where all the workers are women, but again these are rare. So far in all the shops I’ve visited, I have met only one employee out of scores who actually knew anything about what he was selling. Most of the male workers appear bored – perhaps since few customers exist, or else enamored with one another carrying on and laughing, instead of helping potential buyers or even taking money from eager customers. But even more frustrating is there are no fitting rooms! No fitting rooms. Of course this makes perfect sense according to Sharia Law, as the male employees working in the shops cannot intermingle with women trying on clothes. I asked a worker at Zara International where I should try on my potential buys and he said, “You must buy the things, take them home and return anything you do not want within the next three days.”