The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Risque in Riyadh

Posted by vmsalama on March 4, 2008

Did you know that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have emerged as the leading importers of European lingerie?  ‘Tis true!  I’ve been a bit obsessed with the subject since my days in Egypt where I often observed women, showing no more than their eyes, walk into lingerie shops to pick up the most scantily clad panties and negligee.  According to the European Fashion and Textile Export Council,  lingerie exports to the Gulf from the EU’s 15 core member states totaled EUR72.6 million (US$ 92.79 million) in 2006.  Further, UAE and KSA accounted for 77% of Europe’s total lingerie brand exports to the Gulf, followed by Kuwait at 16%.  Moreover, Lingerie sales in KSA, the region’s biggest market, were estimated at over US$41 million last year.  Chinese made lingerie accounts for approximately 12% of KSA imports, with America controlling the lion’s share of all mid-to-high end brands.In 2006, the government of Saudi Arabia announced that men would be barred from selling lingerie in the Kingdom’s many boutiques (women were banned from working in the retail sector).  Here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Guardian in 2006:

The Saudi labour ministry has warned shops selling lingerie that from June it will begin inspections to ensure men are not serving customers. Shops that fail to comply will face fines.Once the shops have female staff in place men will also be barred from entering.The government is struggling to implement a decree issued more than a year ago aimed at providing more jobs for women. A recent survey in the Red Sea city of Jeddah found that of 247 shops selling lingerie and beauty products only three employed women.Most of the men working in the shops are thought to be Lebanese.  

 The whole industry is really fascinating — and something I hope to explore further in my time here.



2 Responses to “Risque in Riyadh”

  1. Dina said


    I came across your article through a Google search. I am currently working on a market research study of this sector. If you could please send me your sources and any additional information you’ve found regarding this topic, I would greatly appreciate it.


  2. hana said

    As we pay highest prices ever at Gas Pumps, the Saudi’s languish with stock prices moving up for the fifth straight day

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