RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The last time a U.S. first lady visited this Middle Eastern kingdom, she was criticized for appearing in public without a headscarf. Michelle Obama was blasted on Saudi social media — as well as by a prominent American tweeter named Donald Trump — for not covering her head during her 2015 visit, as women are expected to do in this conservative Islamic country.
So there was some anticipation about whether first lady Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump would cover their heads during their visit this weekend to Riyadh.
They did not, in keeping with the modern tradition of visiting western dignitaries.
As the Trump women descended the steps of Air Force One and onto the tarmac here in Riyadh, their hair showed as Saudi King Salman greeted President Trump with an elaborate welcome ceremony.
Both Trump women wore conservative, full-length outfits that covered their arms and legs and loosely resembled an abaya, the full-length robe worn by Muslim women.
The first lady wore all black, with long sleeves and flared pants, cinched with a wide, metallic gold belt, while the first daughter sported a black-and-white dress with splashes of magenta.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have arrived. pic.twitter.com/tSzgBOekjx
— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) May 20, 2017
Their decision to forgo a headscarf follows recent precedent. Hillary Clinton did not wear a scarf when she visited Saudi in 2012 as secretary of state, nor did German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May during their past trips here.
Nevertheless, Michelle Obama’s decision not to wear a headscarf set off a furor on social media — including a tweet by Donald Trump:
Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted.We have enuf enemies
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2015