Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Is There Halloween in Saudi Arabia?
For the vast majority of the country, the answer to that question would have to be NO! Halloween would be seen as having evil roots, the work of the devil, plus the fact that frivilous and fun activities seem to be forbidden or at least frowned upon here. Western holidays are not celebrated, and there are only two holidays recognized here at all - and both of them, not surprisingly, are religious. I haven't actually heard or read that Halloween is technically banned here though, not like Valentine's Day is - which I have written about before.
I'm sure there are Halloween parties and possibly even trick-or-treating within the confines of the residential compounds for foreign workers here. And until this year, I didn't think it was a holiday that was celebrated among Saudis. But it seems that through the wonders of the internet, some Saudis have learned about Halloween and want to dress up in costumes, celebrate, and have their own parties.
I was recently invited to tag along with H (one of my SIL's) to a party at her relative's house, but I had no idea it was going to be a costume party until H and her 6-year-old son got into our car and I saw that the boy was dressed up in a Sponge Bob costume. When we arrived at the party, the villa's gates were decorated with spider webs, witches, pumpkins, and big spiders, and inside there were balloons, bats, and ghosts and other elaborate orange and black Halloween decorations.
The party guests were mostly fun-loving teenage girls and a few were younger, about 30 in all. There were also maybe three little boys, under age 10. They were dressed up in costumes from princesses to punk rockers to puppies. One of my favorites was a girl of about 10 dressed up like a Saudi man in the white thobe and red and white checkered scarf - she had a black beard and moustache painted onto her face plus her eyebrows were heavily painted into a big unibrow. I thought she was adorable.
But the absolute best costume was worn by my hilarious SIL H. After we arrived, she went into the bathroom to change. She put on a loose pink housedress with big brown polka dots all over it and wrapped her head up in a white scarf. Then she put on these thick Coke bottle glasses with round black plastic frames, gnarly rotten fake teeth protruded from her mouth, and she had tucked large bulbous sprigs of some type of fragrant green herb into the arms of the eyeglasses which stuck out on each side of her head - apparently this is something traditional that old Yemenese women do to smell good, but it looks rather odd. As the finishing touch, she added a huge balloon under the skirt of her dress in the back - it was one of the funniest costumes I have ever seen.
There was a female DJ who played dance music ranging from Western hip hop to current Middle Eastern hits and the girls had a blast dancing in the large living room turned into a dance floor where the furniture had been mostly removed. The adult women spent most of the time upstairs chatting and laughing and smoking sheesha. I was asked about Halloween traditions so I told them everything I could think of. Next year I'm going to make them a Haunted House and have them bobbing for apples!