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Here's Why Michelle Obama Captured the Spotlight As She and the President Visited Saudi Arabia

In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stand in a receiving line, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/SPA)

First lady Michelle Obama ignited controversy while in Saudi Arabia Tuesday for not wearing a traditional head covering.

Accompanying President Barack Obama on his trip to visit the new Saudi king, Michelle wore a blue jacket over a loose fitted shirt and long pants.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, fith left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Under the kingdom's strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab. But covering one's head is not required for foreigners, and some Western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.

The dress code violation prompted Twitter users in Saudi Arabia to skewer the first lady on Twitter, using a hashtag that translated to "#Michelle_Obama_Immodest," Politico reported.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stand in a receiving line, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/SPA)

Others noted that on a recent trip to Indonesia, she had worn a headscarf. They wondered why the first lady's trip to Saudi Arabia was any different.

Michelle's lack of a headscarf even resulted in part of the all-male delegation of Saudi officials to avoid a handshake with her.

Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women on the strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah (shah-REE'-yuh) law known as Wahhabism. Genders are strictly segregated. Women are banned from driving, although there have been campaigns in recent years to lift that ban.

According to Politico, the first lady's office had no comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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