'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Happy Valentine's Day? Not in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman is seen at a flower shop on the ...

Some Riyadh flower shops get away with stocking pink flowers , such as this one pictured on V-day last year. (Image by (AFP/Getty Images via Daylife)

Think you have reason to loathe the treacly holiday? Try Saudi Arabia, where it’s actually illegal.

The battle here against chocolates, red teddy bears, and red roses is upon us again. Pitting the Saudi religious police (known officially as the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice) against love-sick teens, it’s an old chestnut, worn smooth by overuse, so much so that locals collect and ridicule the latest headlines. Among the winners this year:

* “Roses are banned … violets are too”
* “No Valentine’s: Saudi religious police see red”
* “Roses are red, violets are blue, Valentines in Saudi risk a flogging or two”

As bored as I am by stereotypical news stories from Saudi and the lazy thinking that pigeonholes this place as nothing more than barbaric, the notion of a banned romantic holiday speaks to a larger problem for young people here: Loneliness.

But boys will be boys, and girls, girls. Seeking each other, Saudi kids have for years been evolving better and better contra-religious police strategies. First it was cell phone numbers taped to rear windshields or dropped on paper slips at the mall. Then it was Bluetooth-enabled devices, set to pick up signals from nearby paramours. The latest trick — and perhaps the most secure method yet — is communicating through unique Blackberry pin numbers. Unlike Bluetoothing, pin-flirting allows secure, individual communication between two people. It also has the techno-advantage of flummoxing religious police, who aren’t exactly early adopters.

Just in time for V-day however, there are reports that members of the virtue cop brigades are being outfitted with Blackberries. (Hint: Don’t ping the guy with the beard and cane.)

For regular updates from Riyadh, follow me on Twitter.


Filed under: Islam, Religion, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, World, , , , ,

One Response

  1. jcalton says:

    They’re not Catholic…why would we expect them to have this holiday anyway? This is a tiny part of the reasons why the Middle East hates us.
    And they do hate us. They just love our money.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



  • The Westfield Mall on Sunday afternoon is the greatest place on earth 1 hour ago
  • At the Whole Foods today Lauren Hutton smiled warmly at my daughter and her pal, who were soon arguing whether sea urchins have penises 23 hours ago
  • Semi-serious question: Can you surf during the eclipse? (perhaps related and more pressing: can you surf during the apocalypse?) 2 days ago
  • Timing: Most likely gonna surf during the eclipse https://t.co/et2pCbCY9z 2 days ago
  • RT @danavachon: Bannon tucking into a steel dog bowl full'a whiskey. 2 days ago
%d bloggers like this: