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Volume 22, Number 2March/April 1971

In This Issue

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The Arab Women—Abroad

Photographed by Peter Keen and John Anthony

Whatever her status at home, the Arab woman abroad is no longer outranked, overmatched or upstaged.

For years, and particularly since World War II, the Arab states have been increasingly conscious of the prestige accruing to countries with effective representation in foreign lands. It has been only recently, however, that they have been able to field an adequate number of spokesmen who enhance rather than blot the name of the country he—and she—represent.

States like Egypt and Lebanon had little trouble finding either men or women with the social, intellectual and linguistic talents so important in increasingly sophisticated international circles. During the century and a half when French and British cultures nearly eclipsed their Middle Eastern heritage, numerous Egyptians, including at least ruling class women, had achieved a sophistication to rank with any in Europe. To a lesser degree, so had the women of Lebanon and Syria. In at least dress and manner—and as often in the more important areas of intelligence and education—these dark-eyed, imperious, "exotic" women were every inch the match of their western opposites in the diplomatic, social and cultural salons of the world.

This was not so for some Arab nations; the vital educational and cultural background was simply not there. But once exposed to the heady influence and challenges of more liberal societies, women from even the most conservative areas began to adjust. Today they are as confident and as competent as any group of women anywhere and from Ottawa to Rome, Paris to London, New York to Washington, they're making the scene wherever it might be, whatever it might require. The lecture at Georgetown? Excellent. Skiing in the Laurentians? Of course. Solzhenitsyn ? I've just started it. Dancing at the Shoreham? We'll drop in later. Truffaut? No, I missed it. Lunch tomorrow? Lovely.

More proof, we think, that if they ever did, Arab women abroad need never apologize again for their countries, nor their countries for them.

This article appeared on pages 22-25 of the March/April 1971 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for March/April 1971 images.