Valentine’s Day is a day especially dedicated to love! It is celebrated all over the world, where the hype starts weeks before the actual day. Women eagerly wait for this day to see what their loved one has planned for them and bought as a gift for them, and they too do the same. Cards, gifts, heart shaped chocolates, heart shaped stuff toys etc. are a symbol of this day but the most sought apart from these is the red rose. A red rose is considered to be the ideal and most suitable gift to the one you love on this day. In KSA, however, one cannot even imagine talking to a person of the opposite sex in public, let alone celebrating Valentine’s Day. Saudi Arabia has very strict regulations on celebrating Valentine’s Day and this applies to married couples as well. Even on a usual basis, no public display of affection is allowed and religious police patrols the streets for people who disobey.
One can only imagine the situation in KSA, especially on Valentine’s Day. Red roses are sold in such a shady manner as if one is doing a drug deal! Buying and selling any such heart shaped gift or red roses is strictly prohibited and religious police patrols malls and streets and confiscated any such item weeks before the event. This obviously forces people to opt for other means of getting them such as under the counter or sneakily. But for florists this is obviously a great day for business, where a very large number of people buy flowers for their loved ones.
Hussein, a florist, has devised a cover up for this. He decorates the window of his shop with white roses, violet hydrangeas and orange irises. With his window completely covered with such harmless flowers, the religious police does not come inside and check his shop while he hides the red roses in the back of his shop and sells them. According to him, he has sold around 350 roses at 20 riyals on Valentine’s Day! (Normal rate is SR 5 per flower). He says that many women call him on the phone to order roses out of fear of the religious police. However another florist, Kumar, was persuaded by a Muttawa visit to not even think of breaking the Valentine’s Day ban. He planned to sell off his red flowers to a chocolate shop instead.
Confectioners also sell heart shaped chocolates but very discreetly. They do have them but keep them hidden so as to not cause any problems with the police. The religious police also warn them to not sell them on this special day. This year, however, in Jeddah which is a relatively relaxed city in terms of selling and buying of such items, florists have been openly selling red roses claiming that the religious police cannot charge them as they are not doing anything wrong. The ban on celebrating Valentine’s Day in KSA adds to the excitement and anticipation of this day as it becomes an adventure to try and get gifts, flowers and chocolates for your loved one. It makes the day even more romantic and adventurous, while Saudis do not pay heed to any such ban and still manage to get whatever they wish on this day.