For that matter, if the Saudis don’t like it she could then tell them, “I’ll wear a head covering if, when you and your fellow Muslims visit England, with or without your families, you wear western dress and your women wear skirts and no head covers. If I’m expected to respect your traditions then you should respect ours.”
The Prime Minister, in a dark blue trouser suit, made sure she had her wrists and ankles covered, in accordance with strict dress codes for women in Saudi Arabia.
But her choice of outfit as she arrived on Tuesday afternoon was contrary to Foreign Office guidelines, which state: “Women should wear conservative, loose-fitting clothes as well as a full length cloak (abaya) and a headscarf.”
Mrs May won widespread praise on Twitter, with users saying they were “proud you have not bowed down” to the regime, and that “secular women are equal and free”.
Britain’s only other female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, wore a long robe and a hat that covered most of her hair when she made an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
Members of the Royal family also abide by the Foreign Office’s advice when they visit the strict Muslim kingdom.
There is, however, no law requiring foreign visitors to cover their heads, and Mrs May is by no means the first visiting foreign VIP to go bare-headed.
Michelle Obama left her head uncovered when she visited Saudi Arabia with President Barack Obama in 2015 to pay respects following King Abdullah’s death.
Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, also went bare-headed on the same trip.
Before she arrived in Saudi Arabia, Mrs May had said she hoped her visit would show “what women can achieve”.
Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and cannot take paid employment or travel abroad without permission from a male guardian.