Women’s Activewear in the Middle East: A Cultural Revolution of Fitness

Many Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, have banned women sports and women working out in public for decades. However, recently Saudi Arabian women have been defying the rules and exercising in public. There has been a cultural revolution with robed women running on the paths and streets in the city, evidence that change is coming.

History Of Women Sports In Saudi Arabia

While a group of women running down the street in another country seems ordinary, it is not the norm in many Arabian countries. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has a monarch government that follows very conservative Shariah law, which has banned women’s sports for decades. The country launched widespread public schooling in the 1960s, banning physical education for girls. The government further barred women from participating in sports or any sporting event.

There are new organizations like Jeddah Running Collective (JRC Women), founded in 2013 when there were no women running groups in Saudi Arabia. Today women all over Saudi Arabia in different cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, and Khobar, are running in the and claiming the space that was long considered inappropriate for women.

Every city has a unique blend of women in the running scene. The men and women supporting these running groups are committed to ensuring the advancement of women’s sports culture in Saudi Arabia. “Saudi society has traditionally viewed women exercising in public as taboo or improper,” says AlMarzooqi, Ph.D. a professor of Public Health at King Saud University who researches the level of physical activity among young Saudi women.

However, the cultural revolution doesn’t come easy; women still experience harassment when trying to work out in public. As recent as 2016, women worried about being harassed and starred or even being stopped by the Saudi religious police who enforce very strict modest dressing or behavior in public. Historically, the Saudi government has always believed that the interaction between non-related women and men is immoral.

As a result, Saudi Arabia has become a gender-segregated country. All public places, including restaurants, have separate sections for families and ‘singles’ who are primarily men. Women do not go outside unless in the company of men. All the schools are single-sex, and universities as well. Until recently, the government issued licenses for women’s gyms.

Before, women ran on treadmills in the comfort of their homes. They help kickboxing, Pilates, yoga, and other fitness sessions in their houses. Some found creative ways to work around the licensing issues by opening a gym or fitness studio inform of a hotel, hospital, or seamstress shop where the license was not required. Other women joined fitness classes and running groups in their gated communities.

It is important to note that no law says women cannot run. However, it is not as expected and goes against the culture. This has led to a massive demand for women’s activewear in the region. Here is a look at the women’s activewear that women wear in a modest region.

Women’s Activewear in the Middle Eastern Culture

Modest Workout Top

Modest workout tops are high-neck and long-sleeved, so they do not expose too much skin. In Saudi Arabia, you need to cover your hands and arms.

Hijab Hooded Top

This is a hooded hijab style that makes it easy to work out. It can be hard to work out in the gym or running while ensuring your hijab is in place. These tops are comfortable and stylish for all modest women who work out wearing a hijab.

Loose Sweatpants Or Jogger Pants

Many women wear loose sweatpants or jogger pants underneath their abayas while running in public. Others wear them alone while working out at the gym since they are comfortable and stylish for a modest woman.

Swear Proof Jackets

A sweatproof jacket is another excellent addition to modest women’s active wear. You can wear it on top of your abaya while running on other gym clothes to cover up. These jackets are made of a material that wicks away sweat and ensures you are cool and dry.

Women’s activewear in the Middle East has come a long way. Check out Posh Omega for the latest women’s activewear designs. Our collections are skillfully designed to offer luxurious, trendy, and budget-friendly designs.

References and Resources


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