Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

My Saudi Shoes

“I love your shoes!” my friend cried. “Where did you find them?”

“It was thirteen years ago, in Saudi Arabia” I told her.

“Thirteen years? They look brand new!”

(These are not my shoes. These are shoes Saudi women can buy in Saudi Arabia.)

Ummm, well . . . when you live in super hot countries during those thirteen years, you don’t often wear closed toed shoes. It’s more comfortable to wear sandal style shoes, and more hygienic – when you live in the dry heat, your feet can get hard and cracked, and are vulnerable to feet fungus. Your feet need to breathe. Most of my shoes are open, but we are starting to have occasional chill weather in Pensacola. The flowers of the South have all pulled out their heavy sweaters and are wrapping wool scarves around their necks, even wearing winter coats.

Since the current cold snap features daily highs that are normal for Seattle or Germany in the summer, and since I thrive in the cold and suffer in the heat, I am in long sleeve lightweight t-shirts and sweaters, and – closed toed shoes.

I dread close-toe shoe season. My feet no longer like to be confined in shoes or boots. My toes hurt when I walk too much in them. So I have only a few pair of winter shoes, but really good ones. 🙂

Saudi Arabia was one of the best places for buying shoes I have ever lived, with entire floors of malls devoted entirely to shoe shops. Prices were reasonable; French and Italian shoes were cheaper in Saudi Arabia than they were in France and Italy, maybe because of the taxes imposed by the Eurozone.

Think about it. When you live in a country where women are all covered, wearing abayas, and they are supposed to keep their hair covered (most of us shameless westerners carried a scarf but did not wear it unless ordered to do so by the religious police / Muttawa) and the most modest women even cover their face, what is there to wear that people will notice? And women ARE women . . . Yes! Shoes!

The Saudi women wore fabulous shoes, and they wore delicate black lace gloves, and they wore scent. They bought Berkin bags and Hermes headscarves, and fabulous Chopard watches. When a group of Saudi women would walk by, you would be enveloped by a cloud of the headiest, most seductive scents in the world. And oh, holy smokes, the shoes . . . Saudi women were just beginning to experiment with a little embellishment when I left – a little Swarovski crystal leaf on a scarf, or a sprinkling of crystals on the neckline of an abaya, some embroidery on a hem, a dark green abaya instead of severe black . . . women are women, no matter where we are. We like a little sparkle, and we buy things that make us feel special.

The shoes my friend liked are Italian, navy leather heels with a kind of leather lace around the toe area. They are lovely, and I wear them happily (for a short while) during closed-toe season. They are classic, and I am hoping I can wear them another twenty years or so, which is entirely possible if I only wear them during cold snaps in Pensacola. 🙂


November 6, 2011 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Shopping


  1. Those shoes are gorgeous – and I’ve become a total shoe addict, especially after moving to Kuwait. I can’t live without my heels 🙂

    Comment by PlumPetals | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. love this post and love the memories of good shoes and lots of sparkle 🙂

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  3. LOL, Plum Petals, I can’t wear most of the gorgeous stilettos so in fashion these days; it takes me a lot longer to find a pretty and tasteful pair of boots with a smaller, wider heel. Lucky lucky YOU!

    Thank you, Little Diamond. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  4. Love this post…the shoes and the lovely fragrances ( for both men and women) were the first things I noticed when we moved to Doha!

    Comment by Grammy | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  5. LLOOLLL! I am remembering the Qatari men and their gutras and egals – how you would be in the mirrored elevator with them and they would be so enchanted with themselves, arranging and re-arranging their gutras! And oh my, yes, they did smell good! I remember my friends in Qatar telling me that God likes it when we smell good, to honor him. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  6. I can never find shoes my size! My shoe heaven is Beirut, where nothing is impossible!
    They can custom make shoes for you! I chose the color and the heel length and everything it was great!

    Comment by Chirp | November 9, 2011 | Reply

  7. Oh! Beirut! That would be heaven!

    It’s funny, Chirp, different nations have different shoe standards. I can’t wear German shoes; if they are long enough, they are too wide, they fall off my feet. French or Italian I can wear just fine. American shoes . . . sometimes. Sometimes they hit my heel the wrong way . . . Oh, to have shoes made to order! 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 9, 2011 | Reply

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