What Style of Dress is Appropriate for Women in Public in These Middle Eastern Countries?

January 8, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Different countries have different cultures and different dress codes. Pew Research Center has analyzed data from a population study in the Middle East, and looks at what style of dress people consider appropriate for women in public in the countries.

Based off the Middle Eastern Values Study from the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, the countries are: Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq,Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

All of these countries have one thing in common–they are Muslim-majority countries. Many are in the Middle East, though some are technically part of Africa, such as Egypt.

As we can see in the image above, the survey gave people six styles of women’s headdress and asked them to choose what they believed to be most appropriate for a woman to wear out in public. The choices ranged from a full cover up with not even any eye slits, to the belief that women should not have to cover their hair in any way.

Saudi Arabia proved to be the most conservative, with 74 percent of respondents marking one of the two most conservative options.

Pakistan came next, with most choices spread out among 2, 3, and 4. Lebanon was the most supportive of women not covering their hair, followed by Turkey and Tunisia.


The survey also asked people straight up: Should women be able to choose their own clothing?

“This attitude is most prevalent in Tunisia (56%), Turkey (52%) and Lebanon (49%) – all countries where substantial percentages are open to women not covering their heads in public. But nearly as many in Saudi Arabia (47%) also say a women should be free to choose how she dresses. Smaller, but sizable percentages agree in Iraq (27%), Pakistan (22%) and Egypt (14%),” according to Pew Research.

“What the survey leaves unanswered is whether respondents think social or cultural norms will guide women in their choice to wear more conservative or less conservative attire in public.”


Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber