Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia: Once-banned holiday entices couples, singles alike

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In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, flower shops and restaurants in Saudi Arabia are luring in couples and singles alike with beautifully assorted bouquets and tailored menus to mark the occasion.

Seven years ago, lovers had to plan their gifts weeks in advance to avoid being caught by the since-abolished Committee of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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The committee had previously banned the sale of red roses and would prohibit shops from displaying any red-colored items ahead of and on February 14.

Bouquets and heart-embellished items would be sold in secret at shockingly high prices to couples in love willing to pay the price.

But as the Kingdom continues to enact reforms to improve the quality of life across the country, citizens and residents have been publicly embracing the celebration more and more each year.

Women shop at a florist selling products for Valentine's Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
Women shop at a florist selling products for Valentine's Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

“My wife and I have been married for ten years. We used to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home and would buy each other small gifts a week in advance. I would order flowers, which were doubled in price by the way, days before,” Yousef Moussa told Al Arabiya English.

“This year, we plan to enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant together. It’s nice to publicly show our love,” he added.

Valentine’s Day specials in Saudi Arabia

In Riyadh, the fine-dining Greek restaurant Meraki is offering couples a “romantic dinner experience inspired by Penelope and Odysseus’ love story.”

Meanwhile, world-renowned Japanese restaurant Nobu in Jeddah will be hosting a live DJ to play music for guests who want to dine from a specially curated menu.

For Floward, the go-to online flowers and gifts delivery destination in the MENA region, Valentine’s Day is the biggest day of the year.

Last year, the company received its most expensive order from a client in the Kingdom who wanted to gift a $3,000-bundle of flowers and other accessories to commemorate the occasion.

A bouquet and gift bundle created by Floward. (Supplied)
A bouquet and gift bundle created by Floward. (Supplied)

“Each year, sales leading to and on Valentine’s Day increase by several multiples in comparison with other days and occasions. Each year we’re noticing a growing demand on this day and more people celebrating this special moment,” Floward CEO & Chairman Abdulaziz al-Loughani told Al Arabiya English.

“We think that people’s attitudes and behavior were already existing but now they started acting on it publicly rather than privately,” he said.

The lack of restrictions means both couples and single people no longer have to shy away from openly celebrating the day of love.

“My group of friends and I will be handing out roses and chocolates to each other in the office,” Rania Hasan told Al Arabiya English.

“It’s a cute way to show each other love on this day.”

A woman takes a photo with her mobile phone as another holds a heart-shaped balloon as they shop at a florist ahead of Valentine's Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
A woman takes a photo with her mobile phone as another holds a heart-shaped balloon as they shop at a florist ahead of Valentine's Day in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 13, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

Without having to think twice when writing bouquet cards, people have also been more expressive about their feelings, the General Manager of the Riyadh flower shop Little Flora Soniel said in an interview.

“In the past, they would come three, four days before and make an order. They would not write a lot of feelings in the cards, but now people are willing to share their feelings and write them. They order directly through our website instead of coming secretly or sending a quick, anonymous text message,” he said.

“The volume of orders was always there, but now there is more of an openness among people. We never noticed a significant increase. Now people come and directly make orders for their wives or girlfriends,” Soneil added.

Read more:

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

Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia: That changing look of love

Tunisia’s Grand Mufti says Valentine’s Day is not ‘haram,’ on one condition

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