For Saudi Arabian women, physical beauty is vitally important. The greatest asset that an Arabian woman has here in this society is a pretty face. I learned this early on when I first met my husband back in our mid-20s, when I was much thinner, cuter, and younger. During get togethers with his Middle Eastern friends, the topic of pretty women would often come up, and they all always agreed that a woman’s physical beauty is much more important than her intelligence or her personality. I remember thinking how shallow Middle Eastern men must be if the attribute of a nice looking physical appearance was really what they look for most in a woman.
Now that I have been living here in this country for eight months, it has shed some light on my understanding of why Saudi men place such a high value on a woman’s beauty. Since dating is not allowed and many couples barely know each other when they decide to wed, first impressions are of the utmost importance, and being fair of face weighs in heavily in this situation. It’s no secret here that a beautiful woman is much more desirable for marriage than one who is not so pleasing to look at. Physical beauty is really all Arab men have to go on to make their decision about who they want to spend the rest of their lives with. The number one goal in life for most women here is to marry, have children and take care of her family. The Koran commands marriage. In fact, it even instructs men to marry not based on the female's beauty or wealth but on her devotion to the religion. This is in direct contradiction to my knowledge of what Saudi men look for in a mate.
Women with lighter eyes and fair skin are also more desirable here in Arabia too. Light eyes are rare within pure Saudi families, however people from other countries such as Turkey or Egypt who have settled here have brought some light eyes into the population.
As far as skin color goes, the preference here is definitely for lighter skin. Women with darker skin here though actually stay lighter because they are never exposed to the sun, therefore their skin never tans or freckles, stays softer and doesn‘t wrinkle as much or as early as their American counterparts who have spent lots of time outdoors.
When women go to weddings here, many of the woman wear a ton of borderline clown makeup. We are talking dozens of Tammy Faye look alikes slithering around in low cut backless evening gowns.
Now remember, men and women do not ever mix socially here, so women dress like this for other women only. I just think that they would look so much prettier with less makeup, but apparently they like the Tammy Faye look.
Women here are not supposed to make themselves appear attractive to other men. This is why they wear abayas, veils, cover their hair and are not supposed to wear makeup except for their own husbands or for other women. This society totally hides women from being viewed by other men, yet there is such a high value placed on a woman’s physical beauty. I’m figuring women do things like dying their eyebrows because it makes them feel more attractive, like I feel when I wear makeup - but to whom? To themselves? To other women? I just find things like this very confusing. I would love to understand this, but unfortunately the explanations I got from my hubby and his family didn’t clarify things for me and just confused me even more. To me, this is a very murky area.