With her face and body completely covered by the black head-to-toe
abaya mandatory in the Muslim kingdom, 18-year-old Saudi girl Aya Ali al-Mulla was named "Queen of Beautiful Morals" late on Thursday,
Saudi beauty queen Aya Ali trounced 274 rivals to win a
crown, jewellery, cash and a trip to Malaysia, and all without
showing her face, Saudi media reported on Friday.
There was none of the swimsuit and evening gown competitions and
heavy media coverage of beauty pageants elsewhere when the contest
was decided in the eastern city of Safwa.
Instead, the winner and the two runner-up princesses had to undergo
a three-month test of their dutifulness to their parents and family,
and their service to society.
This included a battery of personal, cultural, social and
psychological tests, Al-Watan reported.
Nearly 200 contestants spent 10 weeks attending classes and being quizzed on
themes including "Discovering your inner strength," "The making of
leaders" and "Mom, paradise is at your feet"—a saying attributed to
to underline that respect for parents is among the faith's most
also spent a day at a country house with their
mothers, where they were observed by female judges and graded on
how they interacted with their mothers.
Now in its second year, the number of pageant contestants nearly
tripled from the 75 women who participated in 2008. The pageant was
open to women between 15 and 25.
was unclear exactly what Aya Ali did to pip her rivals in the huge
field, but Al-Watan reported that the high school graduate had good
grades and hopes to go into medicine.
She raked in a 5,000-riyal (1,333-dollar) prize, a pearl necklace,
diamond watch, diamond necklace, and a free ticket to Malaysia with
The 20-year-old first runner-up, one of triplets, had already won an
education ministry-sponsored "I love you, my country" competition.
The second runner-up, a high school student aged 15, was cited for
taking care of her home and family during the week because her
mother works far from home and can only return on weekends.
Miss Moral Beauty pageant organiser Khadra al-Mubarak said the focus
of the pageant was on inner beauty, as defined by Islamic standards of Saudi Arabia.
"The idea of the pageant was to measure the contestants' commitment
to Islamic morals. It's an alternative to the calls for decadence
in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman's
body and looks," said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak.
"The winner won't necessarily be pretty," she added. "We care about
the beauty of the soul and the morals."
Last year's winner, Zahra al-Shurafa, said the contest gives an
incentive to young women and teens to show more consideration toward
tell this year's contestants that winning is not important," said
al-Shurafa, a 21-year-old English major. "What is important is
obeying your parents."