Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's only me and the mirror: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Qassim blog
Sara is a 20 year old student from Qassim.
Saja introduced me to Fajer and Sara when I met them at her house. Sara takes some convincing, but eventually she agrees to be interviewed.
What are your favourite pair of shoes?
What I'm wearing right now.
OK so what are they called?
I have no idea.
They're like platform runners.
Yeah because they have... she points to her shoe.
They have a heel in the back.
They're bumpers because they're high.
It doesn't hurt your foot?
It's actually really comfortable than flats.
So you prefer this over flats?
Yeah I do. Flats are too like, down.
Is it because you want to look taller?
It's because of how it looks in an outfit. Mostly my clothes look better with this.
Even though its sporty looking, you still think it fits?

Do you wear this in public?
In the mall?
I could, but I don't. I wear them when I see my friends.
What do you wear in the mall?
Sports shoes, jogging shoes, my runners.
Because they're more comfortable. I'm going to walk a lot!

So do you always make sure your shoes match your abaya?
No never.
So they match your outfit, but not your abaya.
Yeah I'm going to take the abaya off. it's like when you wear a coat. You don't match your shoes to your coat, but to your outfit.
That's a good metaphor... analogy? I forget the difference now.

Do you wear a different pair of shoes every time you go out?
Most of the time yeah, I don't wear the same shoes. I wouldn't go two days wearing the same shoes. I want to have a change.

Think about all the different pair of shoes you have. Give me an example of what you would do while wearing them.
I have these like boots. Sport boots? And they have all the colours on it. It has gray, dark gray, orange, and drawings and stuff, I love it to death. So. I would wear these with light skinny jeans because they have like no colour, and then like... do you remember Phoebe's pants in Friends? Her skinny jeans.
What? No.
You don't?
No! I wasn't watching the show analyzing Phoebe's pants!
She laughs. OK OK, they're like really, really skinny jeans. Then I would wear a boyfriend T-shirt. So that's your ideal outfit with your pair of shoes.

How do your favourite pair of shoes make you feel?
I would feel cocky.
So that's how you would feel wearing these shoes?
All my shoes!
OK but what about your heels?
Definitely my heels. You're forced to stand straight.

How do you see or judge other women's shoes?
First of all, if it's not matching with her outfit, I can handle it. I wear my sports shoes with a dress. I don't care about the brand.
So maybe you don't judge women by their shoes?
Mm. I guess not. But I judge them by the way they talk, how they move their hands. How they say words.
What if someone is walking by and you don't talk to them? Would you notice them?
Probably not.

How do you think others judge or see you by your shoes?
They would think that I'm awesome. They would want to ask me where I bought them.
Do you think that they would judge you because they're not brand name?
Of course they'd judge me.
Do you think it's common?
Yeah in Saudi it's common.
Do you think that people judge you more harshly here?
No no. It's not like in Riyadh or in a big city. Sharqiyah people are different. They're more down to Earth.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
I don't want them to say anything!
So you don't want them to give off a message other people?
No, no. It's only me and the mirror.

Sara was a very easy participant. She was quick to laugh and because she came from Qassim, a province in the centre of the country known for its agriculture, she was able to see the differences in how people treated one another from region to region in this kingdom, something that I wouldn't be able to ascertain on my own.

She also gave me an easy way of thinking about the way women here, whether they're from this part of Saudi or not, conceive of the abaya. If it like a jacket or a coat, and it's just cast off once you get to where you're going, then it makes sense as to why most of my participants don't match their shoes to their abayas. But like any outer garment they still do pay attention to it, as abayas now come in different colours with different patterns on the sleeves and down the front. I think that my next project will be focused on documenting the many different abayas that women wear here. What do you think? 


  1. It was fun reading about myself lol,
    And im happy to help xo
    Good luck sweetie

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you liked it. It's too bad we only met once. InshAllah we will meet in the future. Thanks again! :)