Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day ... or NOT !!

Today Valentine’s Day was celebrated in many places around our globe, but here in Arabia, it was actually forbidden. The government evidently comes out every year (for the last 7 years) with an edict forbidding the sale of red flowers, red hearts, red lingerie, red heart shaped boxes of chocolates, red balloons that say “I Love You” and other illicit red lovey-dovey items during Valentine’s week in hopes of discouraging people from celebrating it. Valentine’s Day is viewed as an obscene western holiday that encourages unmarried individuals to engage in “immoral relations.”

When I told my husband that I had read several articles online saying that the Saudi government had taken this action, he - being the pessimist that he is when it comes to believing news reports - reacted by saying that it couldn’t possibly be true. Now mind you, my husband spent the last 30 years in America, so this is his first Valentine’s Day back here in Arabia in that long. So after we dropped our son off at school today, on Valentine’s Day, for his rugby practise, I convinced my husband to stop at a flower shop along the way to disprove the validity of these reports I had read. We walked into the shop and the man behind the counter was putting together a beautiful bouquet - of red roses! There were also several other bouquets on display around the shop boasting red flowers. So seeing all this, my husband confidently steps up to the counter and asks the guy if the government had put out an order against selling red flowers during this time. The guy replied “Yes!” but that they just ignore it and go ahead and sell the stuff anyway.

The Virtue and Vice Squad swoops down on shops and confiscates any Valentine themed items, including teddy bears or other racy symbols of love. What this government action does in reality, however, is to cause the prices for these black market items to skyrocket during Valentine’s week. The V&V Squad cannot possibly hit each and every floral shop in the Kingdom, so just imagine how much of these scandalous products get sold at ridiculously gouged prices during this time. The government is actually helping out the floral shop owners who are able to make a much higher profit on such in-demand contraband!

What I don’t understand is - who in the heck does the Saudi government have doing its Public Relations work? Coming out each year and decrying Valentine’s Day – what purpose does this serve? The government here does this to satisfy the powerful "Muttaween," the controversial religious police who are in charge of imposing strict moral codes onto Arabian society. But the harm it does to Arabia’s image to the rest of the world is very damaging. The thing is, though, that this government is very comfortable in its own skin and it really doesn’t care about its flakey image to the rest of the world. But instead of coming out with rubbish like this each year forbidding this holiday, why not just keep “mum” on the subject (excuse my play on words – I couldn’t resist) and let the holiday slip quietly by without any attention drawn to it?

I don't expect roses or anything like that, but I'd be awfully happy with some dark chocolate when my not-so-romantic husband gets home tonight! Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. Happy Valentine's Day, Susie! Life is like a box of chocolates.

    Kristie Leigh Maguire

  2. Hi, and Happy Valentines!
    I have to greatly admire you for tolerating and understanding all of the restrictions, especially on women. I read all of this is total amazement as it is so different from life here socially.
    Linda K

  3. Happy V Day anyway. Love hearing from you.
    Love - Vivian

  4. There are other places where they feel that Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday that goes against their traditions. Each year, hardline Hindu groups in India go into shops and burn cards and gifts, beat up customers, etc.

  5. Hi Susie,
    My daughter (age 10) and I really likes your pictures on your blog. It makes us want to move to Jeddah too, you lucky duck!

    Daisy SSW,
    Al-Hassa, Eastern Province
    Saudi Arabia

  6. Thanks, Everyone, for your best Valentine's wishes!

    To Anonymous - I guess I have always felt that I should mind my own business and others should do the same. I would never want to force my beliefs on someone else.

    To Daisy & Daughter - I'm glad you enjoyed the photo albums. I try to take my camera every time we go anywhere. I find so many things visually fascinating that the people who have lived here all their lives think nothing of - like the lavendar garbage dumpsters and the attendants in matching lavendar jumpsuits. I keep trying to get a photo of them, but we are always in a fast moving car!

  7. the thing with this is taht every1 know abt it now.. just like the firecrackers on Eid. they r banned but u can find hawkers selling em at major shoppin centers..
    wish em good luck w/ trying to confiscate anything 'red'

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