Frequently Asked Questions on Blue Abaya

Who writes Blue Abaya?

I’m a Finnish woman who moved to Riyadh to work as a nurse back in 2008.  I have since explored every corner of Saudi Arabia. I started this blog in 2010 to share some of these experiences. You can watch my interview on MBC channel to learn a little bit more about me, and read through the interviews posts here. 

For any of your questions about Saudi Arabia, I recommend you join our growing group of 17,000 members on Facebook. My friend Susie Johnson-Khalil who blogs from Jeddah and I are the founders of this group, send a request to join here: Susie of Arabia & Blue Abaya 

“What is the meaning of ‘Blue Abaya’?”

When this blog was started in 2010 I wanted to name the blog something that had a personal meaning to me as a Finn living in KSA. I wanted to bring together something from my home country Finland and my host country Saudi Arabia. So the Blue Abaya was born from a combination of the blue skies and thousand lakes of Finland and the cultural norm for women in KSA, the abaya.

Wearing a blue abaya in Riyadh back in 2010 when the blog was founded, was something that was very unusual. In Jeddah the abayas have always been more colorful, but in Riyadh the site of blue or any other color than black used to be completely unheard of just 7 years ago. Times are changing, nowadays you will see women of all nationalities wearing blue and other colors in the capital, although black abayas are still the norm. The change from the strict all black abaya to the more colorful ones started around 3 years ago and now in 2017, spotting a blue abaya on the street is not an uncommon occurrence anymore. Some people assume that I only wear blue abayas when I go out and a few years back apparently wearing one would result in random people approaching me in the city to ask “are you the blue abaya lady?” .

The choice ‘blue abaya’ for the blog name was also a symbolic one to portray a certain way of thinking “out of the box”. It was a statement, I respect the culture and wear abaya, but at the same time I want to express individuality. It symbolises courage, choosing something out of the norm, thinking outside the box, encouraging people to find your own path in life. This same courage and perseverance has its own word in Finnish language called “Sisu“. The word means having great courage, not giving up, facing your fears, owning them, giving 110% to the cause. Sisu is something I definitely have needed to keep this blog going all on my own for 7 years!


“Is Blue Abaya a tour/travel company?”  “Can you organize a tour of ___ for my clients?”  “Can you arrange a trip to Edge of the World ?”

We can help organize tours for you.  The guide to Edge of the World can be found here. Message us to arrange a private tour there.

“Send me the map/GPS/details/date/timing to X event/company/expo/location in Riyadh/Saudi Arabia!!!”

Google is your friend.  Also, ‘please’ is a nice word and common courtesy to use. If you didn’t know, it’s considered rude and demanding to place exclamation marks at the end of a question.

If you’d like to keep up to date with Riyadh events, follow the Blue Abaya Facebook page for updates on interesting events in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia. Add me on snapchat where you will find a lot of things I don’t post anywhere else. username blueabaya


“Is it allowed for me to wear a blue/ colored abaya in Riyadh (or insert any city in KSA) or will the religious police arrest me? Where can I buy nice abayas? “

Yes, you can wear other colors even in Riyadh. Jeddah and the EP are much more relaxed when it comes to abaya fashion. Saudi Religious police  (more commonly known as muttawa or Hai’a) won’t arrest you for wearing a colored abaya.  They might arrest you and throw you in jail for having a shwarma with your male colleagues though.

For nice affordable “everyday” abayas check these souk locations: Bisht souk and Tayba Souk 


“Why haven’t you replied my email/ message/ comment/ query?”

I receive so many emails, comments, messages and queries everyday that replying to them all is very difficult. As much as I would love to reply each and every one it has unfortunately become impossible to handle. The amount of work that goes into everything related to running this website and my Inspired By Arabia business plus the 9 social media channels associated with them takes up most of the hours in my days. My first priority will always be my two children, (a 4yr old and a 5 yr old), which guarantees that most of the time life is quite hectic. 

Please keep in mind that maintaining this website and all the social media channels that go with it is a full-time job which also comes with a lot of expenses.You can read this post 12 tools to create a succesful blog to learn more about blogging expenses. For Blue Abaya it’s 1,857 USD per year to be exact. To try to cover some of those expenses (server fees, domain names, wordpress theme, plugins, SEO services, various security and design software, to name a few)  I created an online business where I create souvenirs and gifts from my Saudi Arabia photography called Inspired By Arabia. You can support my efforts by checking out my FB store here: Inspired By Arabia. To purchase the Saudi Gifts online you can check my Zazzle store and Society6 store here; Inspired By Arabia and on Instagram Inspired By Arabia. 


“I’m going to relocate to Saudi Arabia soon. Should I get an abaya beforehand?” “What do women wear underneath the abaya?”

You don’t need to buy an abaya before arrival, it’s perfectly fine to dress in loose fitting modest clothing which covers the legs and arms when you arrive in KSA for the first time. You will find so much more selection and better prices for abayas locally. You can wear pretty much anything you want under the abaya, some women wear only bikinis or nothing at all when temperatures reach over 45c (120F)!


What does “Saudi Wasta” mean?

Read this post to find out: Do you have Wasta?


“How can I join the ‘expat desert walks’ also known as the Hashes? 

Only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend and you should go with someone that’s already a member or regular visitor. Ask around in expat groups and forums, try this one: Susie of Arabia and Blue Abaya FB group. 


“What activities can we do with children in Riyadh?”

Check out the Riyadh with Kids page for some ideas.


“Are you married to a Saudi prince?”

No. But you can read how I met my Saudi ‘Prince’ here. The real Saudi royalty also make an appearance here every now and then.


Can you help us get the Saudi marriage permission? Do you have wasta in (insert Saudi ministry or government office here)?”

Sorry, but I can’t help obtaining the marriage permission or a wasta. I get a lot of emails asking about this, I recommend you join the FB group past Present and Potential Wives of Saudis or you can read about how we got it here and maybe that will help answer some questions.


Who made the blog banner. logo and the blog design?”

The original banner image is a watercolor painting by Aafke Brouwer. It depicts me riding an Arabian horse on the Red Sand dunes of Saudi Arabia. For more of Aafke’s work please check her website: http://aafke-art.com/.

The blog design and graphics were all designed by blog author Laura Alho.


“Do you rent quad bikes in Riyadh?”

Nope! But you can read this post to find one place to get them. 


“I’m not sure what you meant in this post, and I decided to get offended just in case. Why was my comment not published?”

First, please check that the post you have not understood or that has offended you, was not labeled under ‘humor‘ or ‘satire‘. In other words, that post was written tongue-in-cheek, not to be taken seriously, or in a sarcastic style. There’s no need to take offense. If you still feel the need to write an ignorant, hateful, or just overly negative and miserable comment, it won’t be published. This is not the appropriate forum or outlet to make such comments.


“I’m an Arab/Saudi guy and I want to date/marry a western girl. Can you organize a date for me in Riyadh? “Can you find me an American wife?” “Where and how can I meet western girls in Riyadh?”

Blue Abaya is not a dating site or a matrimonial service. You can find out about the ‘Saudi Style’ Dating Scene in this post, or read about Riyadh’s secret nightlife here for some ideas, however I can’t recommend any of these “methods” nor guarantee they will actually work, let alone find you wife material! Whatever you do,  for the love of God, please don’t put up ads like these!

That said, you might be amazed at how many expats find their soul mates in the Magic Kingdom.


“What is the best restaurant in Riyadh?”

Depends on what kind of food you like. You can go to this page for some suggestions. Definitely give these heavenly desserts a try!


“Where can I go horseback riding/golfing/swimming in Riyadh?”

 Please, first use search option on Blue Abaya and if you can’t find the answer try Google. If you’re still looking for the above activities then check here or here. Even possibly here. Or you can join us on this amazing FB group and ask about any activities in Riyadh, Jeddah or EP area!.


How can I contact you? email contact (at) blueabaya.com 

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  • BhuvanaFebruary 28, 2014 - 2:36 pm

    Hi, I am a regular reader of your blog from India and reading your blog makes me really feel that I have travelled to Saudi and I am experiencing all the beautiful things you decribe. I love your humour and satire and I have spent many a enjoyable hour browsing through your site. This is the first time I am commenting though .Keep up the good work and God bless your family.

    btw some of your contents are password protected is it absolutely restricted access to only your friends. Is there anyway I can access it ?

    One of your many readersReplyCancel

  • LaylaMarch 13, 2014 - 11:09 pm

    Hi there Bhuvana!
    Thank you for the kind words and for your message!
    Regarding the passworded posts, can you please send me a link to them so I know exactly which you mean? or was it you tried to access the Images of Saudi blog? If so, the entire blog is now ‘invite only’ so you would need to send your email address to gain access to it.ReplyCancel

  • KristineMarch 29, 2014 - 10:33 pm

    Love ur page :-) can a single woman travel to KSA just as a turist? Not working for any company but just to travel?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 1, 2014 - 12:18 am

      Hi there, unfortunately they just annoiunced a while ago that the tourist visas have been closed, so if you don’t come on umrah or hajj visa the answer is no :(ReplyCancel

  • KristineMarch 30, 2014 - 1:49 pm

    Can u send me the password to. I cant read the wedding extravaganza 2 without it.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 2, 2014 - 2:04 am

      I’ve removed the password query now ;)ReplyCancel

  • Christa KleynhansAugust 10, 2014 - 11:41 pm


    Are female teachers allowed to wear pants to work (at school) or should they only wear skirts? The term ‘modest’ is a bit vague- should females wear a long sleeve button up shirt or are we allowed to wear a three quarter sleeve when teaching?


    • LaylaAugust 12, 2014 - 12:46 am

      Hi Christa!
      It depends entirely on the schools policy and dresscode. Most of the schools I’ve heard of in the Riyadh area had the no pants rule. 3/4 length sleeves are fine. try and make sure about the skirts directly from the school, good luck :)ReplyCancel

  • Christa KleynhansAugust 18, 2014 - 5:40 pm


    I am training to be a holistic massage therapist and need to complete 50 hours practical to qualify as a massage therapist.

    Will I be allowed to bring my massage bed with or not?


    • LaylaAugust 19, 2014 - 12:38 pm

      I don’t see why not, but how will you bring it, you want to ship it here?ReplyCancel

  • christa KleynhansAugust 31, 2014 - 12:59 pm


    I have a lot of concerns regarding my contact of emloyment at a school and would like whether one or some of the following incidents warrant a breach of contract or not:

    1. They didn’t forward me the complete contract- just * page stating my income, work hours and the 3month probation period.

    2,Our compound is not finished- so 3 people must share an apartment.

    3. We would have flown out on the 19th, but seeing that the visa application process had changed it is still not done.

    4. No indication had been given as to when we are flying. This is seriously unsettling and is starting to give me cold feet.

    5. We were supposed to start with induction the 24th and start on the 31st. My conclusion is that we are going to enter the classroom ‘cold’ I.e no clue as to the curriculum whatsoever.

    I find it forboding. If this is ‘normal’ by Saudi standards, please let me know as I am in an emotional state not knowing what is happening.

    Are there grounds for contractual breach? I want an organised place of employment with no little nasty surprises. If things are not what they are supposed to be, I don’t want to get in just to be trapped in a place where I can’t get myself out of.

    Thanks for your previous responses- I appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • LaylaSeptember 11, 2014 - 4:17 am

    dear Christa,
    I hope things have cleared up regarding the visa and other issues.
    This all sounds pretty normal to me though. Unfortunately things aren’t that organized here as we are used to back home. So even the top schools and hospitals will not be without all sorts problems coming up along the way. You just have to go with the flow..if that’s not your thing at all then I would reconsider. But you can always resign if things go downhill. Going to the classes “cold turkey” is something I’ve heard about happens here..
    my suggestion for you to get a better idea and understanding of the pros and cons is to join our FB group Susie of Arabia, there are literally thousands of members and among them teachers, who can answer all these questions much better than I can :)

    Hope this helps and sorry for delay in response!ReplyCancel

  • LauaSeptember 14, 2014 - 12:39 pm

    Dear Layla,

    I have been looking in your blog for anything related to nurseries and day cares in Riyadh for a 2 years old boy because i find it difficult to trust in any of the ones I previously checked.Do you recommend any nursery here or you have any idea on the best ones?

    Thank youReplyCancel

  • SoniaOctober 28, 2014 - 10:46 am

    Dear Layla,

    I discovered your site last night and have been reading the posts every spare moment since I found it. I lived in Riyadh for 9 years, we moved to the US two years ago and I have been homesick for Saudi ever since. I never thought that I could miss Riyadh as much as I do because when I lived in Riyadh I was always homesick for Canada. Now that we are living in the States I find that I miss both Riyadh and Canada so I guess that Riyadh became my home and found a place in my heart without my realizing it. Reading about places that I came to know and love actually brings tears to my eyes (how silly right?).

    Anyways, the reason that I chose to reply to your Q and A is because you mentioned that Kingdom Hospital is where you had your first child. Although I have many wonderful memories of Riyadh, when I read the words “Kingdom Hospital” tears of sadness come forth. I also had my first born at the so called “best” hospital in Saudi. Wonder of wonders, this hospital didn’t notice that I had preeclampsia when I visited them a day earlier. The day after my appointment, the nurse at the school I worked in (may Allah bless her) actually gave me a urine test after seeing my swelling, told me I had preeclampsia, and had me rushed to ER at Kingdom.

    From that point on things are blurry, at Kingdom Hospital I was given medicine to take my blood pressure and protein levels down but nothing worked. Then they told me they would have to deliver the baby via c section or things could become deadly for us both. Hubby and I said okay.
    This is where things get even worse, the anesthesiologist couldn’t get me numb and tried for a half hour to do so, finally they decided they had to put me to sleep. When I woke up in an overly drugged state I was told that I had a small but healthy baby girl, her lungs were working well and she would have to be in an incubator for a few week. I asked to see her, they wouldn’t let me until the next day when they finally allowed me to see my beautiful girl. I asked to hold her, they said no , they let me touch her fingers after sterilizing myself and wearing full scrubs, and boy did she squeeze my finger with her tiny hand. A week went by like this, hubby and I could touch her through the little hole in the incubator after wearing scrubs and washing our hands. Of course we were fine with that, we just wanted her to be safe.

    By the end of the first week they told us that she was now sucking and I’d finally be able to hold her and breast feed her the following day. She was progressing more quickly then they expected. On a side note, they had placed another baby in the room with her, he was a bit older and in an open incubator, I asked the nurse if that was safe and she said that it was fine so I assumed they are the experts. Hubby and I went home, beside ourselves with joy that tomorrow we could hold our princess.

    The next morning, 6 a.m. the hospital calls my mobile, my baby is very sick they say, come now. I ask how, I can’t comprehend, she was perfect the night before. We get there, she is hooked up to machines and her tummy is bloated. They say she caught a bacteria from the environment of the hospital, and proceed to tell us she is like an engine failing (she was in septic shock). I could not believe they were comparing her to a car part, how could they? I could go on and on, and even discuss the nurse that was laughing at me when I started sobbing as the doctor explained what was happening to my child. To make a story that could go on for pages short, the end result was that my baby passed away (may Allah rest her soul). There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of her, there isn’t a moment when I don’t feel guilt for what happened to her. I know that what happened was Allah’s will, and alhamdulilah He has given us another beautiful little girl, and we have one in heaven watching over us.

    The final message I want to put across in this post is please do not go to Kingdom Hospital to have a baby, they don’t care about you or your child. They treat you like machines and don’t even check you properly for problems that can happen in pregnancy (like preeclampsia) For my next pregnancy I went to Dr. Lamia Ismail Khalil at Dallah Hospital, she was a great Dr. However, I was afraid to have my second child in a Saudi hospital so I elected to go to Canada for her birth.

    Once again, thank you Layla for all that you offer in your wonderful blog. I only wish I discovered it while I was living in the “Magical Kingdom” as you call it :) Take care.ReplyCancel

  • Sans Abaya in SaudiNovember 11, 2014 - 9:17 pm

    […] During my family’s visit here in Riyadh, I noticed how my mother and sister behaviour how they became constantly aware of their looks and very self conscious stressing about their abayas being on correctly or not. Every time someone would stare my mom and sister felt maybe they did something wrong. They would ask questions  very common for newbies to ask like: What’s allowed to wear underneath the abaya? Is it ok if the lowest or highest buttons are open? Should I always wear a shayla (head scarf) with the abaya? Will wearing high heels with abaya get me into trouble with the notorious Saudi religious police? Answers to these questions can be found here. […]ReplyCancel

  • SaeedJanuary 1, 2015 - 1:34 am

    I just found this blog today. This is very interesting. I’m Saudi and studying in U.S but do not think about people as you did. This is impressive.
    Welcome to the Magic Kingdom : )ReplyCancel

  • DalalMarch 11, 2015 - 5:05 am


    Im a Saudi girl and Im having a Graduation Project and its about foreign nurses in Saudi Arabia.

    I read a lot of your topics and its very interesting and useful to me.

    and I want to Quote some of your words, But I need your permission to put your name or “nickname” in my project.

    Can I do that?

    thanks for your timee :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 11, 2015 - 3:29 pm

      Hi Dalal!
      Sure why not, you have my permission, as long as my words are not taken out of context which opens them up to misinterpretations :)
      What kind of project is going to be?ReplyCancel

  • DalalMarch 12, 2015 - 4:47 am

    It talks about language difficulties that faces foreign nurses when coming to the kingdom and the benefits of learning Arabic to them. Pls dont worry :) I already made questionnaires and everything I just needed something smooth and nice to begin with as when you said ” I experienced hands on the generous side of the Saudi people by having the chance to interact with many families through my work.”
    ” Earn respect! Your Arabic speaking colleagues, clients, guests or business associates will be honored that you have taken the effort to learn their language and hold you in high respect.”
    or ” So having this close contact with the Saudi families gave me the chance to experience this amazing side to their culture which is hospitality and kindness to strangers.”

    So! thank you for your kind and honest words and feelings and I wish you all the luck and happiness here in Saudi and anywhere you are.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 16, 2015 - 4:49 pm

      Thank you Dalal, all the best to you <3ReplyCancel

  • georgiaMarch 15, 2015 - 11:25 pm

    Why muslim women in saudis doenst wear jilbab ? do they all only wear abaya ?and if i move there can i wear jilbab? :)ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMarch 16, 2015 - 4:49 pm

      yes sure you can wear jilbab if you like :)ReplyCancel

  • JanaAugust 27, 2015 - 4:51 pm

    I am European and my partner is Syrian. He is Muslim and I’m Christian. We want to Marry in Riyadh. We have no idea how to begin the process or where we can marry. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance.ReplyCancel

  • IvanSeptember 3, 2015 - 6:05 pm

    Dear Layla,

    I have been looking in your blog for anything related to tourism. Is it safe and do you recommend a tourist visit?

    Thanks in advance.ReplyCancel

  • Yasemen MacKinnonMay 23, 2016 - 7:33 am

    We plan to live in Saudi starting in August. I read the article “Items banned from bringing into Saudi Arabia”. it says JEWELLERY. I have got some personal staff that I carry with me all the time. It is possible to declare them at the airport that I will not re-sell them. Please can I get the information regarding this.

  • YasemenMay 23, 2016 - 3:10 pm

    We plan to live in Saudi starting in August. I read the article “Items banned from bringing into Saudi Arabia”. it says JEWELLERY. I have got some personal staff that I carry with me all the time. It is possible to declare them at the airport that I will not re-sell them. Please can I get the information regarding this.

  • JoshApril 24, 2018 - 2:24 pm

    Tourist visas now available for Saudi Arabia.ReplyCancel

  • DocJuly 25, 2018 - 1:47 am
  • NyasiaAugust 3, 2018 - 7:05 pm

    Hi, Ms. Layla!
    I am so in loved with your blogs. I am also an expat woman married to a Saudi.
    I am inspired with your travel blogs. Hoping to get to see and experience more the beauty of KSA.
    I am also wondering about the process of travelling the GCC. Do I need to obtain a tourist visa or the family ID and Iqama will do. We are planning to go to Bahrain and Kuwait this coming Eid’l Adha.
    Thanks in advance! May you continue to inspire others!ReplyCancel

    • LauraAugust 7, 2018 - 12:54 pm

      Thanks a lot for the comment, I noticed you asked this question in our Facebook group Susie of Arabia and Blue Abaya and got some helpful replies there :)ReplyCancel

  • SusanAugust 7, 2018 - 2:39 pm

    Hiii I am planning a trip to Abha in the coming holidays with my 6 month old. What is the temperature in Aug and what are the travel essentials. How to dress up in Abha, do I have to cover my head.ReplyCancel

    • LauraAugust 7, 2018 - 10:07 pm

      The temperarture is typically mild to warm, evenings are cooler. Its up up you how to dress, I know foreign women who have gone without scarf and other who chose to wear niqab. The region is quite conservative the Saudi women majority wearing niqab and black abaya.ReplyCancel

  • AliaAugust 30, 2018 - 5:24 pm

    Dear all thank u soo much for the info but please be informed that am under my fathers Iqama and i have created from his absher account but when i created the account it asks me i have to choose between 2 options 1 go back 2 change ur foreign license but i dont have foreign license so what is the next stepReplyCancel

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