The main purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of
women's behaviour within the built environment of Najd in Saudi Arabia. In other
words, the aim is to discover the way in which women interact with their built
environment and the factors that play a role in this interaction.
The need for this study is crucial and initially emerged from a concern that, during the
last few decades, drastic changes have occurred in the built environment of Najd which,
in turn, produced a mismatch between the social and psychological needs of the people
of Najd (women in particular) and their built environment. This mismatch manifests
itself in both physical and non -physical forms. The physical form is represented by:
completely or partially blocked windows, high walls, unused balconies etc. The social
consequences of this mismatch, on the other hand, is clearly visible in the lack of social
contacts between neighbours and from the limited involvement of women in outdoor
The absence of studies examining the phenomenon of environmental behaviour of Najdi
women confirms both the need and the importance of this research.
This thesis explores Najdi women's behaviour in order to determine the factors that play
a role in their interaction with the built environment. The hypothesis is that there is a
mismatch which is not just a temporary symptom of the transition towards a fully
modernised society. It argues that the mismatch is associated with factors that have
relative permanence such as `ird and the Islamic laws and codes. These factors will be
difficult, if not impossible, to overcome for many of the subsequent generations, because
they are deeply rooted in the culture of the people of Najd.
To tackle the problems involved in this study , traditional and contemporary contexts
were examined through the application of two different sets of techniques. The data
collection connected with the traditional context is dependent upon a reconstruction of
the women's way of life and then relate it to the traditional built -environment of Najd.
On the other hand, the data concerning the contemporary physical environment is
dependent upon immediate observation of that environment.
Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used as tools for the data collection and
analysis that is mentioned above. Adequate modification and adjustments were made to
help serve the purpose of this study.
This study provides us with many results. Regarding the contemporary built - environment, it shows that the domain of the women of Najd has been restricted to a
very limited area, and that their activities have shifted from outdoor spaces to indoor
ones. This shrinkage in women's spatial domain goes beyond the reduction of physical - spaces to include the visual aspect as well. The results also show that women tend to
suffer in the contemporary built -environment and that the urban design of the
neighbourhood has, environmentally, handicapped women and affected their freedom of
movement outsider of their residences as well as restricting their involvement in social
and public spheres. Inside the limited domain of the women, this study shows that the
existence of non -mahram in the same space as women put even more strain on the
women's use of that space.
The main influential factors that mediate the women's interactions with their built - environment are the traditional value of 'ird and the Islamic systems of `awra and
mahram. these values are still strong and the women pay a great deal of respect to them.
These values explain, in different ways, both the suffering, and the satisfaction that
women have with their built environment.
On the other hand, this study discovered that women traditionally enjoyed more freedom
in the use of different urban spaces whether they were public, private or open or closed.
Their domain extended, in the past, to encompass most of the traditional settlement
without them scarifying their ird or violating the Islamic systems and code of modesty.
In general, women in the past, had a higher degree of psycho -social well -being then they