The social cleavage between East and West, tradition and modernity, religion and secularisation, is most graphically illustrated in the differing conceptions of the role, position and status accorded to women. The age-old traditional triad consisting of veiling, the seclusion of women and the strict segregation of the sexes provide the mechanism by which that cornerstone is cemented into place. A full appreciation of the mere longevity of the valued customs is an indispensable prerequisite to real understanding of the significance of those changes which have occurred in recent times. Historically, the veiling and seclusion of townswomen were established traditions of the pre-Islamic period and, in fact, can be traced to ancient Near Eastern origins. While by no means universally entrenched - the unveiled status and greater mobility of the women of the bedouin tribes of ancient Arabia is commonly acknowledged - a historical precedent for veiling and seclusion did exist.