Middle East

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Saudi Arabia without headscarf

German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with its top leaders Sunday -- but she chose not to wear the traditional headscarf and full-length robe that women and girls who live in the country are forced to wear.

It was Merkel's first trip to Saudi Arabia in seven years. Women visiting the country are not legally required to cover their hair or wear a robe, but diplomatic officials have advised them to do so or face possible arrest.

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Merkel isn’t the first female leader to skip the traditional garb. Former first lady Michelle Obama, British Prime Minister Theresa May and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all picked pantsuits instead of robes.

While meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his successors, Merkel said she pressed them on human rights concerns, The Telegraph reported.

“I have the impression that the country is in a phase of change and that a lot more is possible now than some years ago, but it’s still a long way away from having achieved what we would understand as equality,” Merkel said.

Merkel previously has spoken out against the wearing of full-face veils and argued that they should be banned in Germany "wherever it is legally possible."

She's also supported a ban prohibiting civil servants from wearing such veils. Many Saudi women wear the full face veil, known as the niqab, in line with the kingdom’s conservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.