Abaya is a prime outer garment for every woman in Saudi Arabia. This includes Muslims, non-Muslims Saudi nationals and an expat female as well. Under no condition is she allowed to travel without an Abaya even when she is with a guardian (mahram). Whether it is hot or cold, day or night, she has to go with the culture. The only exception is seen in the case of foreign diplomats who are allowed to wear their formal clothes IF they have an appointment at the embassy. Otherwise, in normal routine, even they are bound to wear Abayas. It must be very difficult for them as they are used to wear as short clothes as decently possible. It’s like getting a taste of your own medicine when in foreign countries you do not allow the Muslim women to wear Abayas and in Saudi, you are bound to wear them (smirk).[irp]
Some women do not wear Abaya on the back seat: Normally women do not wear an abaya when they are traveling in a private car with a driver. The windows glass will off course be tinted so it’s a win-win situation. Still, they are asked to keep Abayas with them along with a head scarf in the car as emergencies can occur anytime. Plus, when you get off at your destination, even then you are not supposed to be seen without an abaya. In this situation, Jeddah is more liberating then Riyadh where women are often seen without head scarves (niqab). Some women in Jeddah are also seen to be wearing stylish Abayas which are open from the front and dress revealing. I think that if you have to wear it then wear it properly. Well, women always have a bug in their heads to tweak the normal garment a bit so that it may look not normal. I think this must be the result of the protest of their fashion sense.
Abaya is must on Front Seat: When traveling with their guardians, it’s mandatory for women to wear Abayas. Not wearing an abaya while with a guardian denotes a forward and aggressive attitude. It may be also considered that the guardian is losing his sense of decency that he is allowing her to travel without an abaya. It may also denote that as her guardian he is losing control over her and giving her unnecessary independence. While traveling with her guardian a woman sits in the front seat and the windshield is not tinted. This is the reason for prohibition. If HAIA, mutawa (religious police) finds such couple traveling then they will ask them to prove their legal relationship and might charge for this action.[irp]
Abaya is Must in Public Taxi: While traveling in a public taxi it is mandatory for a woman to wear the abaya. The practice of not wearing an abaya while traveling is not flaunted but it is practiced by most women in Saudi Arabia. Flaunting this practice might get her banned therefore women take it easy and keep a low head. If you are not seen not wearing an abaya, nobody will bother you.