Christmas decorations go on sale in Saudi Arabia for first time

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Christmas trees and glittery ornaments are for sale at a gift shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a once unthinkable sight.

In recent years, festive sales have gradually been introduced into the capital Riyadh, a sign of loosening social restrictions after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged to steer the country towards an “open, moderate Islam.”


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“I didn’t ever imagine I’d see this” in Saudi Arabia, a Riyadh resident told AFP at the shop selling trees, Santa Claus outfits as well as tinsel, baubles and other ornaments.

“I am surprised,” said the resident.

Until barely three years ago, it was almost impossible to sell such items openly in Saudi Arabia.

“It was very difficult to find such” Christmas items in the Kingdom, said Mary, a Lebanese expat based in Riyadh.

“Many of my friends used to buy [Christmas trees] them from Lebanon or Syria,” she said.

Things changed in the Kingdom after a 2016 decree was issued by the Saudi cabinet, restricting the Saudi Committee of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (dubbed as “religious police” by Western media) to pursue and arrest violators.

In February, shops sold red roses and teddy bears in celebration of Valentine’s Day, something that just two years ago was banned as the holiday was deemed “un-Islamic.”

A Saudi newspaper listed several restaurants that allowed guests to celebrate Valentine’s Day, including one that offered a themed menu with special arrangements for Valentine’s surprises.

- With AFP

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Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia: A once-illicit holiday turns popular

Saudi cabinet decree prevents ‘religious police’ from pursuit, arrest

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