Saudi Arabia: No Recognition of Love


Tomorrow will be Valentine’s Day for most of the world.  It will be celebrated openly with exclamations of love and many deliveries of flowers, particularly roses, to individuals.  As I sit and watch the local news in Charlotte, North Carolina, a large portion of the news was dedicated to the upcoming Valentine’s Day.  Viewers advised how they planned to spend Valentine’s Day and for those not sure what to do or what to buy for a special someone, many recommendations were made. The newscast further cited how this one day significantly boosts sales and profits for eateries, hotels, inns, florists and other businesses.  The news even included a special Valentine’s Day weather forecast!

In most parts of the world Valentine’s Day is a time of recognition of love for all individuals.  Traditionally Valentine’s Day was to express love among spouses and sweethearts. Now there is no discrimination on who may or may not receive a Valentine’s Day card or sweets or present.  I had a WIDE selection of cards from which to choose for my grandsons from Granny!

I know that on one hand it can be said that Valentine’s Day solely promotes commercialism and that one does not need a specific day dedicated for expressions of love.  But on the other hand, why not have a day dedicated for love?  What’s wrong with that? There are individuals who may be more reticent than others and having a dedicated day with a wide array of cards and gifts available makes it easier for them to reach out to those who are special in their lives.

Yet once again in Saudi Arabia the many florists which abound in the Kingdom do not have red roses on display or available for sale.  My guess is that red roses have not been seen for at least the past three days. The same goes for other merchants who may generally stock items which display hearts or roses; these too will not be on display before or during Valentine’s Day. As far as Valentine Day cards, if you want to give one in Saudi Arabia you’ll likely have to create and print your own. It is not considered Islamically appropriate to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia as it promotes sin and encourages relationships outside of wedlock, at least according to religious police from the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtual (ie, Muttawa). However, what has happened with the prohibitions placed upon the celebration of Valentine’s Day is the creation of a black market industry of red roses, teddy bears with hearts and many other items which represent love.

Abdullah and I celebrated Valentine’s Day.  Yet in fairness we acted like most days were a Valentine’s Day in which we would express our love for one another.  It was not necessary to buy a card or flowers or a gift.  I had the habit of leaving notes of love in his thobe pockets for him to find.  He would surprise me with his own notes which I would discover on top of my pillow at night.

Abdullah and I will no longer be together for Valentine’s Day.  However I still have many of his notes which I enjoy rereading and give me that special feeling of continual love.

For those American Bedu readers who do celebrate Valentine’s Day I sincerely hope that you are able to be near all whom you love and need to give a special hug!  Happy Valentine’s Day!


32 Responses

  1. When I first was married any day could be a valentine’s day, but since 2005 I have had to spend a lot of time away from home and I had to plan everything we did together in advance. In a time when one can call ones love at any time we may forget that a few generations ago, one did not have instant communication everywhere.

    I spent 2 valentine’s days away from my wife (2008-2009), so I understand the need to make a day special. If you cannot be there, a card and some flowers might be the right thing to do.

  2. May Abdullah’s love cross the void and fill your heart with joy and may the endless love the two of you knew bless the lifes of many others….

  3. I just saw in the Arab News where roses and hearts have been banned from the shops here is Saudi. Shop owners will be fined if they advertise and sell those items. Last year many women were “fined’ (I believe) because they chose to wear red on Valentines Day (under the abaya)! Although I have been in Saudi for 4 years I find it odd that they still try and prevent you from celebrating Valentines Day in the private sector (hence, we have a difficult time teaching/celebrating at the American school I teach at).

    I will be leaving Saudi within 2 years because I would like my American daughter to be able to celebrate those holidays that she chooses.

    We will be celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th with my female co-workers!

  4. Red Roses will bring Arabia to Its knees

    Director’s Comment: Even at a time when the Saudi extraordinary paternalistic government should be busy clearing the dry shrubs that could easily set its house aflame, it continues to ignore the burning bushes next door. With the arrival of Valentine, the Saudi government’s first line of defense, the deadly religious police men, embark on one of their many denigrating assignments: Raid merchants’ stores and punish those who provide celebrative items such as red roses, red chocolate boxes and red wrapping papers among other items. Such occasions and the joy they bring are considered alien to Islam and its teachings, therefore haram, illicit.

    How a sweet smell of fragrant red rose could corrupt innocent souls and contaminate an entire faith, its teachings and traditions. It does not. It’s not the rose, chocolate or red wrapping papers that concern the authorities, especially when they are legal items and sell every day. It’s the celebrative and joyous feelings that scare the paranoid authorities. Anything that might get people together or divert their attention from fear of the king and his family is considered dangerous to the Saudi pure culture and supreme faith.

  5. This year the Hai’a has been especially excited about Valentine’s Day, even going so far as to send out fliers which warn against the evils of the day. (and of course, anything red has been removed from most stores and many florists will be closed for the day as per repeated instructions/warnings/threats from the PVPV.)

    Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the mass mailings that went out – hope your readers enjoy them – and get a sense of just how twisted things can get here sometimes!

    It is haram to celebrate Valentine’s Day because “it promotes love and infatuation… it calls for hearts to be preoccupied with foolish matters that are contrary to the way of the righteous…It results in evils and haraam things such as wasting time, singing, music, extravagance, unveiling, wanton display, men mixing with women, women appearing before men other than their mahrams, and other haraam things, or things that are a means that leads to immorality.”

    Yikes! And here I thought it was just a day set aside to celebrate and rejoice in and remember the people we love! Silly me 🙂

    Carol, I hope this Valentine’s Day finds you comforted by the forever memories of the great love affair and romance you had with your husband. May you spend the day happy and well. Lori

  6. I can actually understand a Muslim being uncomfortable celebrating St. Valentines Day with it’s Christian/Pagen roots. What I cannot understand is why the need to stop people from celebrating it. No one is forced to participate. Don’t the Haia have something better to do like help flood victims?

    I had to laugh at SGIME’s post. Based on that list I’m a highly immoral person. SIgh. What’s the world coming to when people like me are running loose in it? I’ve never been really into Valentines- but because of all the hoopla I’ll go out today and look for a box of heart shaped candy- I think I know a supplier. Just because I’m annoyed and I like chocolate. (oh that’s right- the chocolate will be for my husband)

  7. The Czech people have a way of celebrating love that is non-commercial. They are working hard to preserve it against the onslaught of Valentine’s Day capitalism (a holiday imported by global corporations).

    On May 1st, lovers kiss under a blossoming apple tree. Isn’t that beautiful?

  8. I learned to buy everything in advance in Saudi Arabia. Yesterday I went to al-Hazazi mall, which is on king Abdulaziz road, they have a wide selection of “heart” items in stock: candels, wrapping paper, souvenirs, baking forms, rose petals party poppers, etc. Not sure if they will have it today, but in Batha there are many little stores, which will carry heartshaped boxes, chocolate kisses and candles. It is funny, that you can byu it all just a week before… I sure will miss red roses for this special day…
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  9. The country I am in, police are on the look out for unwed couples entering hotels and ‘women w/out panties?” (Huffington Post-Malaysia) Ah, gee, I am geographically far, about 7 hour flight east of ME and it strict here too.

  10. Its wonderful article especially the points what you added about you and Abdullah, its great to feel about your relationship and love. Special thanks for your time and dedication to write so many things in these difficult days of yours. May Allah give enough strength and good health. Take care

  11. We never did ”Valentine” in the Netherlands, but of late years the commercial crap has been filling the shelves here too.
    However, I am always in for a party, and I have been concocting a small Valentine surprise for my fiance. I like a DYI approach.

    But they really don’t like love and affection in KSA don’t they? How sad, a whole country suppressed against anything warm. fuzzy and loving.
    And what is the plight of a few Jeddah-flood victims compared to destroying any feelings of happiness?

    On the upside, it must add a great feeling of excitement , you buy everything a few days before, and the for the flowers you would have to go to a contraband seller, imagine the danger involved: buying the in the black market, smuggling them back, smuggling them to the beloved…
    I think this ban will only strengthen the bands between lovers.

  12. @aafke-art

    The Saudi approach almost guarantees the popularity of valentine’s days among some of the young (forbidden fruit and all that).

  13. LOVE makes the world go round!

  14. Lets’ face it, we Love all there is to do with love. And why not?

    LOVE makes the world go round!

    It is a beautiful and pure emotion; Fresh & crisp like daisies in sunshine, deep & strong like the ocean. It is a need, a desire, a want, a fancy created by Allah

    And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (Surah Ar-Rum,30: Verse, 21)


    Come 14th February, love is hijacked & sold, like cheap candy that leaves a bad taste in the mouth – But, wrapped in very fancy paper! And they call it VALENTINE’S DAY.

    Special red roses, specially designed cards, “extra special” discounts on that oh so special dinner, supported by special TV shows, specially crooned songs to get you in that special mood – the stage is set for one special marketing genius day!

    You think, like millions of others, this is all specially for me? Why have we allowed love to become a commodity?

    And have we considered what “brand” of love Valentine’s day is promoting? Same as the media does … “virtual love” … images of tall, dark & handsome, petite yet voluptuous, sacrifice through rebellion, passion as reckless, and “love” as pleasurable sin. Everything is so dramatic, so momentary and yet so alluring …

    Do we really know the difference between real love and virtual love?
    Or have we all started living in “La La Land.”

    The Canadian Red Cross says,

    “Valentine’s day hype can fuel youth dating violence. Our culture starts laying the groundwork at a very early age to convince young people that romantic love is all important. However, we often neglect to teach young people what’s health and what isn’t in romance.”

    We have imported a phenomenon that thinking people in the west are rejecting –cigarette companies found a new “market” in us when anti-smoking campaigns took hold in the west. They need to sell, we need NOT BUY.

    Stop and think. Does a card with some one else’s pre printed paid emotions spell out “romance” for us? Do we want to find ”love” by following a pagan festival that had a lottery to distribute women for entertainment?

    WE HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE … Realistic, constructive and fulfilling.

    The Prophet (PBUH) said: NIKAH is my sunnah … (Bukhari & Muslim)

    Islam offers real love, real romance and real flirting!

    Yes. Flirting …

    Who says we can’t flirt with our husbands/wives or be passionate or go out on dates? It is all there and worth waiting for …

    Allah protects us from the short lived glamour of “virtual love” and has blessed us with the finest and purest relationship between a boy and a girl – marriage.

    The Prophet (PBUH) enjoyed an especially meaningful married life. By modern standards he was a liberal and open-minded man. He had no problem declaring in public that his wives were the dearest and fondest to him.

    A few decades down, we will hear “Valentine’s day is part of our cultural tradition”! Today we hear, “What is the harm in expressing love on 14th February?”

    Are we still going to press the ball gowns and tuxedos? Select a partner and set the scene for Valentine’s day? Grab the tickets and tables before they are sold out? Hook up with a friend to cover up our absence at home … just in case we miss out? … miss out on what?


  15. Yes 😈
    No better tactic to get people to do something than forbidding it!

  16. I didn’t know that about Saudi. Thanks for sharing the story. I think my boyfriend would love to live over there heheeheh. He says that Valentines day is just another day. BUT, we still celebrate it because I want to 🙂

  17. valentine day’s almost here and nary a rose in sight !!! 🙂
    but surprises never end, my babies have made us a cake ( orange chocolate cake) and are planning to surprise ( sigh!!!) with no clue that both of us have late clinics . i can’t tell the kiddos without ruining the suprise , but stashing the cake in the garage is not a very bright plan either !!! HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY ALL… and carol, think of the good times i hope you are at peace.

  18. I’m loving reading all these comments! ❤ To be honest, I almost forgot about Valentine's Day until a family member mentioned the retail sales on lingerie. @^_^@

    I love Aafke's POV on Valentine's Day. IMO, holidays are just an excuse to get together with loved ones (or in this case a certain loved one) and throw a party! 🙂 Oh, and for retailers to make more money. Considering I want to work in fashion (a retail-related field), it's a win-win for me! LOL.

  19. I was laughing at all the giant red bears and love hearts in the florist windows last weekend. What angers me is that the muttawa harass married couples celebrating on Valentines Day. What nonsense! If a man tells his wife he loves her then society will fall into immorality?

    Sadly, the real immorality will continue behind the backs of the muttawa while they make these empty gestures.

    Happy Valentines Day all! You can celebrate without spending a dime by just telling someone special that you love them.

  20. Carol,
    Happy V day to you and the cats!!!

  21. @saudi man

    I made my own card, so very little money was spent (just the cost of some ink and 4 sheets of paper). You don’t have to spend money to celebrate. If you don’t like it you don’t have to participate, but complaining about other people’s attempts at having fun in simply poor taste.

  22. Strange one made a good point, maybe there is a lot of trash around but one can chose to buy it or not. And if one does then it means that people are making money. All that stuff is made in China so it means that people who otherwise would not make money are making money now.

    What is really sad is that there are places where some sad spoil sports who can’t have any fun in life have the misguided authority to spoil it for everybody else as well.

  23. I think the demand that it is not to be celebrated or acknowledged just gives it more appeal and allure.

  24. @Saudi Man,

    Take a deep breath, relax, think clearly, etc..

    Don’t you think you are making too much of this? Why does it bather you so much that others want to celebrate a day in a different way than you do?

  25. @Saudi Man
    Certainly if your mind is in the gutter and you can’t behave appropriately, then you should not participate. But no need to try to stop other decent people.

  26. I understand Saudi Man’s dilemma. Seriously when you have four wives which wife gets the flowers? Which one gets the dinner? Which one gets the heart shaped candy? Which one gets laid? It is really just TOO much to try to figure out and best that we not try to even recognise the stupid man mad holiday anyway!

  27. Can someone explain why the muttawa have to confiscate the RED roses but not say the pink ones?How about other flowers?
    I’m confused! So if my husband got me the pink ones, this means he does not love me?
    And what about the red teddybears, what’s this nonsense! How about a pink hellokitty doll?? Why are the muttawa so obsessed with certain items when there are hundreds of ways to show love on this day!

    I think this is all just ridiculous. I never liked to celebrate Valentines day anyways because it’s so commercial. But I did get those pink roses from my husband 😀

  28. How approprpriate …Yesterday I posted the following on my facebook page and here it is:

    “Today in my country you can’t buy a red rose, chocolate shaped hearts, and any stuffed animal that are red. They tell us this valentine thing is a pagan rooted holiday, a Christian and Roman tradition but in fact no one around here look at it that way, even in the west they don’t. It’s a day to tell your wife/husband, fiancé, and all the people you love that you love them. What harm can that brings, they are those who going to use the same silly used up arguments, why not celebrate every day of the year, and I am not going to even justify that with an answer. Promoting love to your fellow human being, even platonic love, is certainly much better than encouraging hate and violence. So I am going to say it out loud…HAPPY VALENTINE TO ALL MY FRIENDS AROUND THE WORLD….there I said it….:)”…

  29. Anonymous Saudi, Happy Valentine to you too!
    Love and peace!

  30. Anon Saudi,

    I’m late on catching up with comments but I wanted to personally wish you a Happy (belated) Valentines Day!

  31. As a muslim I see the folly in denying people.the chance, any chance, to express love to their loved ones. I do celebrate valentine in my own way with my family ever year and I do not see anything wrong with that. Most Muslims regard valentine as Christian and hence their aversion. I got to know the origin of Val on your blog Bedu and I thank you for that. Since then I have been celebrating it.

  32. @ Aafake,

    And happy belated Valentine day to you too, we may not see eye to eye on some of topics raised, but when it come to loving your fellow human being, I do believe, we are on the same wave length…
    @ AB,

    and happy valentine day to you to and to all of your readers around the world.

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