Offbeat, Online Magazine

A Brave New Saudi: Ahmed Al Omran

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Writing on the Margins.


While boys his age were playing on the streets of Hofuf, Ahmed Al Omran would be reading the Asharq Alawsat, a pan-Arabdaily newspaper— his youthful mind already enthused by politics and current affairs.

His love for reading quickly diversified into a passion for writing. The latter caught the attention of a teacher, who further challenged him in class and gifted him with his very first dictionary. However, instead of jumping into journalism after High School, Al Omran first pursued a degree in Pharmacy at King Saud University, Riyadh to satisfy his father’s wishes.

Al Omran started the “Saudi Jeans” blog in 2004 as a way to practice writing in English. He was one of the first Saudi bloggers in Saudi Arabia whose writing was accessible to an international audience due to its linguistic medium. It remained an outlet for Al Omran throughout his university years. After presenting his diploma to his family, Al Omran finally followed his true calling. He acquired a scholarship and finished a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Al Omran is one of the few international Saudi journalists. Predecessors like Fazia Ambah, who worked at the Washington Post, highly influenced his path. He spent a year working for NPR, before returning to Saudi Arabia to be a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. His writing has also appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, and now he works for the Financial Times.

When asked what led him to a path in international journalism, Al Omran replied, “The way Saudi Arabia was being reported on included many examples of poor writing in the post-9/11 period. I believed that I was in a unique position to provide insight into my country because as a citizen I would have far better access to the people and their stories.”

“We are living in a special time, seize that moment to create important and valuable work.” – Ahmed Al Omran

Twitter: ahmed

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Local Designers, Offbeat, Online Magazine, Story, Style & Shopping

A Brave New Saudi: Arwa Banawi

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Bedouwins and Silhouettes.


Ever since she debuted the Suitable Woman collection in 2015, we, and everyone else it seems, have not been able to take our eyes off Saudi fashion designer, Arwa Banawi. Her creations have graced the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and came to life on the runways of Dubai, Paris, and of course, the Kingdom. She has caught the attention of stylists the world over, and most recently, Jessie J opened her concert in an Arwa Banawi outfit.

In less than three years and without missing a step, Arwa has set the barometer for the Saudi fashion industry. What makes her stand out as a Saudi designer is her ability to match her sartorial creativity with entrepreneurial astuteness. She comes in with passion, as many do, but then pairs it with a think big strategy— and so, when she says, “our vision is to export Saudi culture”, it’s more than a statement, it’s a prophecy.

A penchant to capture what’s real, and an ability to come up with collections that are multi-versed— universal on one hand, unmistakably Arab on another, makes her a force for representation. Her style is best described as androgynous, and her successful attempts at designing for pluralistic identities may just be what attracted collaborators to come knocking at her studio’s doors.

Adidas Originals paired up with Arwa to create “P.E,”, the first among her contemporaries to do so. The capsule collection consisted of athleisure wear and her signature suits. Levi’s Middle East tapped her to create a customized trucker jacket. At every turn, the persona she designs for is tangible and clearly defined: the modern day creative woman, transcending borders, turning boundaries into silhouettes.

“Our Saudi fashion community is growing, it is making a strong case to be recognized as an industry hub in the middle east. I want to be part of this reality, I have always been proud of my roots and in the near future, I want my first flagship store to be in my country. Saudi is cool, we got this.”

“I grew up in a creative household, fashion was part of my childhood. I was heavily influenced by baba’s Versace suits, and mama’s modest couture. I would take all the Sufrat Salat I’d find around the house and drape them over myself, looking at the mirror. I knew this wasn’t child’s play for me, this is who I wanted to be, what I sought to create.” – Arwa Banawi

Web: arwaalbanawi.com

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Food, Offbeat, Online Magazine

A Brave New Saudi: Rakan Al ORAIFI

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Fervour and Flavors.


“Sometimes, your passion is ignited when you get thrown into the fire, that’s how I discovered mine —I opened a restaurant straight out of college, and one day, I found myself without a cook, and all I could do was put on an apron and brave the heat of the kitchen.”

From a down on his luck restaurateur to becoming one of the Saudi chefs to prepare a Saudi lunch for over 5,000 guests at DAVOS, World Economic Forum 2018, there is no doubt that Chef Rakan has come a long way.

Long hours, knife cuts, and skating through slippery kitchen floors is what it took for him to be named Best Saudi Chef 2018 by the Saudi Tourism Excellence Awards, and to be nominated in the Middle East Excellence awards this year. And if you asked Chef Rakan, he’s looking forward to more of it: “Passion gets you started, hard work is what moves you forward. Being Saudi is part of who I am but we (as Saudis) are more than the word itself, it is important that we represent our culture, for me I do it through food and how I act as a chef. Be professional, be willing to put in the long hours, keep learning. I am honing my techniques—French, Japanese, Chinese, I come in every kitchen to serve good food but I am also there to become better.”

This year, Chef Rakan starred in two cooking shows, for an Abu Dhabi channel as well as the recently relaunched Saudi Broadcasting Channel (SBC). Prior to these, he also competed in Top Chef Middle East. Chef Rakan is working towards one day becoming an executive chef, and eventually opening a restaurant with him at its helm. He is currently a Senior Chef De Partie at Four Seasons, Riyadh.

“Don’t do it for the money, if you do that you will not make it. Cooking requires passion, being a chef needs dedication. It’s not easy, you will start from the bottom, bruises, cuts, burns– but I can tell you this, it’s worth it.” – Rakan Al ORAIFI

Instagram: raloraifi

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Art, Artist & Musicians, Arts & Music, Galleries

A Brave New Saudi: Khalid Zahid

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Aesthetic Resonance.


From Sheikhs on carousels capturing the simplicity of faith, car-door winged dolls sparking hope, to a beating dome installation that rendered him the meta pied-piper of Jeddah, Khaled Zahid is a Saudi contemporary artist who knows how to merge concepts and the familiar together, leaving viewers amused and provoked at the same time.

Zahid considers himself a messenger, using art to reflect on local social issues defining the current paradigms in the Kingdom. One such example is the “Beginning/End” installation, a deconstructed pump that meditates the past while looking towards a diversified future.

Zahid has exhibited in cities like Moscow, New York, and Abu Dhabi. His artworks have been widely circulated on social media. Case in point, his Amal Doll, became the celebratory symbol of choice when the ban on Saudi women’s driving was lifted.

The Holy Decibel he unveiled at the Shara exhibition with Ali Chaban, caught the attention of international curators, and will soon be shown at the Sharjah Biennale. It cuts through the noise that overshadows Islam by elevating the conversation to an intellectual level that is  explored through a multisensory art experience.

Zahid does art in a way that doesn’t feed on typical dissidence but rather, inspires overt dialogue, and here lies his ingenuity: “I don’t cross red lines— you need to think smart as an artist. I walk on red lines to bring and lure people in. Their interest rises when they see you doing something that’s on the fringes. The moment you cross it though, you will lose your audience, the art galleries, and the shows.”

Khalid Zahid’s work is set to be displayed in major festivals in the region, and will most likely find its way to the art capitals soon. And through him, the world will discover that there’s more to contemplate about Saudi Arabia than meets the eye.

“You need to be a smart artist, your work needs to be a balance of two things: you should have a strong concept, a shock factor, but delivered beautifully.” – Khalid Zahid

Instagram: KZ_art

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Artist & Musicians, Arts & Music, Online Magazine

Nugamshi

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Sweeping Contradictions.


A man flitted and flounced over a canvas laid on the floor. His movements are impetuous; tempered with swift deliberate strokes. It was marked with purposeful pauses to reload his weapon of choice, a broom, no less drenched in paint as much his thobe.  He gives the impression of an artist lost in the moment, in his performance—sheltered from the cacophony of on-lookers through the music blaring through his earphones. There is intimacy in the act of creating, and Nugamshi, grants those who watch him perform privy to his thoughts and identity.

Present day Riyadh, Nugamshi paints for us one statement over another, creating converging and diverging narratives along the way. Every now and then, his face would draw a pensive stare, seemingly caught in his stream of thoughts.

Nugamshi was born in Qurrayat, and spent most of his childhood in Qassim before moving to Riyadh. His interest in calligraphy was first influenced by his teacher, Nasser Al Harbi, who also discovered his talent for the craft. Nugamshi pays homage to the tradition but pivots towards a contemporary approach to calligraphy. He positions his work at the crevice, marrying it with his love for typography. The latter, an interest taken further by Nugamshi as a graphic designer, working now as a creative director for a private company.

"The making of the art is akin to a dance. The words I choose are not random, they are words born out of a monologue, expressed to create a dialogue with the audience"   Nugamshi

“The making of the art is akin to a dance. The words I choose are not random, they are words born out of a monologue, expressed to create a dialogue with the audience” Nugamshi

Perhaps what makes Nugamshi’s work stand out is its successful meshing of Japanese techniques, graffiti and the act of painting itself—resulting in a captivating visual and performance piece. His use of unconventional materials was part out of necessity and influenced by Niels Shoe Meulman.

“I have tremors, my hand shakes, and that is something that normally would be a disadvantage if you are working with a detailed, technique oriented craft like Arabic calligraphy. However, for me, it was not a limitation, it pushed me to go outside the normal and find my way,” Nugamshi said.

Nugamshi’s brand of calligraffiti transcends language barriers, the appeal of it is universal, which the artist attributes to the spiritual connection he creates in every performance. His favorite words to create are Her, and Nun.“whenever I perform, I am representing my identity, introducing my language, but at the same time, the experience itself is universal. Foreigners actually appreciate my art more than Arabs.” Nugamshi has taught workshops on the basics and history of calligraffiti at the YourAOK art organization in Kuwait and presented his video installations in the 2016 Sharjah Calligraphy Bienniale. He performed with his Saudi contemporaries in Washington DC last spring.

Calligraphy is an art form marked by discipline, mastery, and an obsession with perfection— Nugamshi’s departure from it extends not just in his execution but in his detachment from his art.

“I don’t believe in the past, it ties you down. I only believe in the future. The moment I finish an artwork it is no longer part of my present, and so I destroy it,” says the man, who at one point in his life impulsively chose to be homeless in Hong Kong.

Just when you thought you’ve had Nugamshi read, he throws you a curve. His artistic signature isn’t the medium and tools he chooses, but the calculated chaos and measured impulsivity that characterizes his every move. He is his art, and his art is he: bold and broad, thoughtfulness caught in reckless abandon.

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Fashion Trends, Shop In Riyadh, Style & Shopping

TOUS Jewelry opens at Riyadh Park Mall

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TOUS Jewelry opens 22nd of September KSA store at Riyadh Park Mall.


Global CEO for TOUS Spain Jose Maria Folache has opened the 22nd TOUS KSA store in Riyadh Park Mall, one of the largest and latest shopping malls in Riyadh.

The new opening comes in line with the TOUS strategy to consolidate and strengthen TOUS leadership position in the affordable luxury jewelry segment.

The flagship store boasts a premium location of 133 sqm perfectly placed in the Mall, which reflects the TOUS premium image status and suits the taste of lovers of unconventional jewelry collections, with displays of a wide variety of iconic affordable jewelry and accessories that cater to all needs and perfectly fit women from different age groups.

The store boasts a unique modern design and showcases a wide range of TOUS collections for 2018 and 2019 that have been launched at the opening.

The ceremony was attended by Jose Maria Folache, CEO, TOUS International, Korayem Al Enazi, Chairman of the National Precious Metals Commission and Selim Chidiac, CEO of L’azurde Group, the new Franchisee for TOUS in KSA, as well as women dignitaries, businessmen, the media, celebrities and TOUS jewelry lovers.tous1

AlEnazi commented: “We are always happy to see an international brand like TOUS increasing its investments in KSA. This reflects the confidence in the Saudi market and is fully in-line with its Vision 2030. TOUS is an international brand with top quality products, we look forward to their increased presence in the Kingdom and further expansion and investment”

“We are excited to open the first TOUS store with our new partner, bringing the total number of stores across the Kingdom to 22 and at one of the most prestigious malls. TOUS is keen to increase its investment in the Saudi market in line with Vision 2030, which reflects the promising future of the Saudi economy. We are confident about the potential of the Saudi market and look forward to contributing to creating more job opportunities for Saudi youth and promoting investment in the Kingdom,” said Folache who visited the Kingdom to attend the opening ceremony.

“We aim to fortify our presence in the Kingdom and expand our business especially after TOUS consistent sales growth over the past years. TOUS carved a pioneering leadership position for the brand in the Saudi market and we are confident that our partnership with the TOUS KSA franchisee will boost TOUS sales in the Saudi market as a global luxury brand. Our mission is to continue impressing our customers with our creative and innovative designs while focusing at the same time on maintaining our original and genuine quality,” he said.

Commenting on the opening of the new store, Selim Chidiac said “TOUS iconic jewelry collection is unique and modern and complements our existing product portfolio perfectly. With TOUS, we will be able to reach new customer segments and offer affordable luxury products to consumers. We are confident that through our solid partnership with TOUS we will enhance TOUS position in the Saudi market. TOUS is an important addition to our business and it comes in line with our strategic plan to expand into the affordable luxury jewelry segment.”

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Food News

Hits and Misses: Riyadh’s Latest Food Trends

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The making of legends, fads, and flavors our palates wish to forget. 


Instagram-ready Unicorns

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Contoured waffles, doughnuts posing on top of shakes, glittered dessert-scapes, and yes, unicorn inspired drinks—Riyadh rode the instragram foofie (food selfie) trend like no one’s business. Don’t get us wrong, we like pretty food, for as long as it doesn’t compromise taste. Sadly, we’d have to say there were more misses than hits when it came to crazy concoctions this 2017, so next year folks, let’s try to master the basics.

HIT: Serafina’s Crazy Shakes, Chunk’s popcorn cake

Veganism and Patties from Outer Space

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Healthy living isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle and we’re all for it. When fitness became mainstream, came the rise of popularity and interest in Veganism. Cool so far. When you have demand, out comes restaurants and establishments wanting to provide. Burger joints started offering vegan options, some fared well, while others tasted like Martian dirt specimens we accidentally swallowed, that would eventually lead to our mutation.

Dear restaurants, yes, if you can’t beat them, join them, but if you do, do it right. Who did it right? Urth Caffe, try their vegan pizza.

Better Latte than Never

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Somewhat of a latecomer in 2017 but seems to be holding strong, is the comeback of the latte, iced or hot. New cafés like Jolt have a latte menu, where you’ll find Spanish lattes, gahwa lattes, rose lattes, lavender lattes and other interesting concoctions. Whether you like it velvety or frothy, lattes are here to stay.

Where are all the Good Ramen?

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This culinary import is just one of Japan’s brilliant culinary creations. Ramen, when done properly, is soulful. Ramen masters orchestrate this dish, it’s a balancing act of flavors and textures. Unfortunately, the ramen bowls that came last year has yet to satisfy our cravings. So sorry, guys, this is a miss— for now.

Gotta have ‘em all, Poké Bowl

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First thing first, poke bowls are not from Japan they hail from sunny Hawaii. It’s not a new hipster invention, poké (pronounced as Poh-Keh) has been around for ages and part of the indigenous culinary culture of Hawaiians. In Riyadh, we don’t have poké specific places yet so restaurants, most of them Japanese, have taken it upon themselves to give their deconstructed sushi take on this dish. Honestly, we don’t mind, they’re tasty but we would love to someday taste an authentic version just for comparison.

Hits: Mee So Hungry, Sushi Counter, Circle Café

The DR 2018 Foodie Prophecy:

Move over Quinoa, there’s a new superfood in town, which presumably would be Soghum.

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So it’s been circulating that middle eastern food will be trending globally (makes sense, we’ve loved it for ages!). But allow us to put it out there before cultural misappropriation muddles things this year: Daqqus will be replacing Sriracha as the It sauce. Remember its name.

 

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Food

Enjoy the Wonderful High Tea at The Globe

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Nestled atop Riyadh’s iconic AlFaisaliah Tower, the Globe provides a stunning 360-degree view of the city. Pair that with their High Tea and you have yourself a truly elevated weekend experience.


The moment the elevator opens to the main restaurant, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Likewise, the atmosphere within the Globe itself does not disappoint—spacious, elegant, and inviting on a fine Friday afternoon.

The High Tea itself consists of sweet and savory buffet offerings to pair with their unlimited hot beverages. There is also a fun kid station, making it a nice family affair should you wish to bring your children along.

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We appreciated the variety of savory treats, from sandwiches, canapés, salad cups, croissants, down to the sushi corner; no palate will leave dissatisfied. The dessert table is not to be overlooked either, providing a selection of crafted chocolates, macarons, cakes, and more.

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To tie it all neatly in a bow, they offer one of the finest tea labels in the world, TWG. Coming in a variety of flavors, favorites like the Moroccan Mint and authentic Jasmine can be had here. Coffee lovers, worry not, you will enjoy a fresh brew here, too.

High Tea at Globe is perfect for friends, families, and couples wanting to enjoy a sophisticated yet relaxing weekend. We recommend going around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and stay to watch the sunset on the city. Make sure you also pass by The Experience, an exclusive viewing deck that will leave you awe-inspired.

Location: AlFaisaliah Tower (See map)

Timings: Fridays and Saturdays, 3-6 PM

Price per person: SR 195 inclusive of hot beverages (tea/coffee)

For Reservations:

Tel: +966-11-2732222

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Activities, Explore Your City

Take A Hike!

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Your Winter just got cooler.


A roundup of hiking clubs and touring services to get you exploring like a true Riyadhi.

It’s the winter season, and those who love the sun can finally play under it without any apprehension. This is the season for all the outdoor adventures that a Riyadhi can dream of, and that means it’s officially the time for hiking, camping, and adventuring.

Horizon Tours

Abdulrahman AlShaya started Horizon Tours because of his love for the desert. It is one of the first touring services to be licensed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage this year. They offer central region tours but also cater to other parts of Saudi Arabia, like Shuwaimis and the empty quarter. Horizon took us on a Rock Art tour where we saw awe-inspiring petroglyphs and went to a secret valley that felt like an open museum. The Horizon crew is amazing when it comes to giving you a full and authentic historical, cultural, and entertaining experience. Expect to learn about pre-Islamic folklore, listen to legends around the bonfire, feast on authentic Kabsa, and enjoy the desert like a true Bedouin.

Instagram: the_horizons_tours

Masarat Club

Masarat club was created with passion and fervor to explore. A group of friends who loved hiking came together to start the club in April 2017. Their hiking adventures are thrilling, exciting, soulful and educational. With them, we get to explore mountains that we never knew to have existed here. The tour guides of the club are always curious, so they try to discover as many hiking trails and historical sites as possible. If you’re lucky to hike on a mountain close to such a site, then you can have the pleasure to explore more. Masarat Club’s guides are fully equipped with all the hiking equipment and first-aid, so if you’re concerned about your safety, no worries, they’ve got your back. The club also takes people here on global trips; next up they’ve got Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus in their books, so get ready to register yourself if interested!

Instagram: Masaratclub

DR Fave for taking your hikes to the next level

Price for the hiking trip per head: SR 400

Ghazi Tours

Ghazi tours is majorly formed by the Ghazi family hailing from the Northern part of the country. Their trips highly focus on bringing people together from diverse cultures and entertaining them. Destination tried their trip to the Red Sands called Saad, where we got to sand-ski, ride quad bikes, drift (in a safe manner of course), sing and dance. They are a group of explorers who offer camping trips and one day trips filled with fun and adventure in which you get to explore places in and around Riyadh. When you’re on a trip with them, there’s more time for laughter, fun and socializing than exhausting yourself on a trail. Ghazi Tours is passionate about its culture and they aren’t hesitant to be loud, hence, their folklores and folk dances are authentic and amusing. Safe, fun, social and exciting- they are a classic in what they do.

Instagram: ghazitours

DR fave for most things to do

Price for the tour per head: SR 220 inclusive of meal

Riyadh Hiking Club

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This group organizes trips on a weekly basis. The locations and type of hikes they do also vary between the sand dunes, sunset excursions, fossil gardens, valley hikes, and sometimes, in city cultural trips and activities. The one we were invited to join was at the Edge of the World, followed by a barbecue, where people got to socialize and enjoy a campfire with warm tea. The people are culturally diverse, friendly and welcoming, so you won’t feel left out even if it’s your first time hiking in Riyadh. Another cool thing about Riyadh Hiking Club is the most affordable option between all the tours we’ve tried.

DR Fave for newbies and social butterflies

Facebook: Riyadh.Hiking.Club

Price for the tour per head: SR 220 inclusive of food, refreshments, and transportation (if needed)

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Healthy Living, Local Designers, Online Magazine, Style & Shopping

Abayas for the Active You

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By Safa Hassan and Duha Al Hosainy

Don’t let them get in the way of your activities!


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M-Line Abaya Instagram: madawialissa Price: SR 800

Your typical abayas can be quite a hassle when you’re trying to get a movin’, let alone working out or getting active. We’re firm believers though that you shouldn’t let it get in the way of staying healthy and going out and about. We have come up with ways you can stay on track with fitness without being interrupted by your abaya.

  • Length & Cut
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Silver Star, Royal Mall Price: SR 300

If you want to use an abaya for dynamic wear, have it shortened from the bottom. Or opt for a cut that won’t get in the way. Go for a deep ‘U’ cut from the front rather than the regular trailing bottoms.

  • Hoodie

Hoodies are great because you don’t have to keep managing them. Neither do you have to deal with the tarha. If you like having a slight breeze on your neck, hoodies are perfect. When paired with the hijab under-scarf, they give you the coverage you need, added with a bit of rocky swag.

Check out the Nike Hijab Pro for a snug, athletic fit.1-1-of-33

  • Sleeves

Find an abaya with foldable sleeves that won’t keep rolling down. Or opt for an abaya with sleeves that end right above your wrists. Also, make sure that the sleeves are not tight, so you can lift weights without feeling restricted.

  • “Flash-proof” Abaya

A.K.A. the abaya with a zipper. It’s loose enough to let you move around with ease. It’s an ideal abaya for brisk walking, jogging or running without having to hold it in place every now and then. Bonus points for being able to wear breathable clothes underneath!1-2-of-33

  • Black is the new… Black.

(This works only if your abaya is black.) A simple hack for those who don’t like it when the abaya restricts proper leg movement during a brisk walk or run, or don’t own a zipper/thobe abaya: wear a full-black outfit (nothing that defies the purpose of the abaya), and let your abaya hang on your shoulders. And Abracadabra! Watch your body camouflage with the abaya.1-17-of-33

Pro Tips:

  1. Bluetooth headphones pair well with a hoodied abaya.
  2. Make sure your abaya comes with pockets. It results in less baggage in your hands.
  3. You don’t want to wear an abaya made of thick fabric. Make sure that the abaya is made of a light, breathable material. Chiffon is a good choice.

Where to get your abayas in Riyadh:

  • Royal Mall
    Location: Olaya St.
  • Taiba Souk
    Location: Olaya St. and King Fahad Rd.
  • Saudi Sports Abayas:
    Running abaya by Eman Joharjy
    Instagram: emanjoharjy
  • Cycling Abaya by Baraa Alluhaidan

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