Saudi Arabia pulls out all the stops to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Saudi Arabia is promoting Valentine’s Day this year more than ever with flower shops and restaurants luring in couples and singles with bouquets and tailored menus to mark the occasion.

Previously the Committee of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice had banned the sale of red roses and would prohibit shops from displaying any red-coloured items ahead of and on February 14.

But as part of the Kingdom’s westernisation and liberalisation process, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for at least three years now.

AlArabiya News reports that 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.

“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.

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

As recently as three years ago it would have been unthinkable to celebrate Valentine’s Day as it was considered haraam. Many Islamic scholars consider celebrating the festivals of the non-Muslims to be forbidden.

But since Mohammed bin Salman became de facto Saudi leader he has overseen the liberalisation of the country including a burgeoning entertainment industry.

The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery like that of its patron saint, Saint Valentine.

One theory suggests Saint Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd Century in Rome, who was executed for defying a decree from Emperor Claudius II that outlawed any remaining single men from marrying as they were better soldiers than those who had already wed.

According to the story, Valentine was sentenced to death after continued to he was found to be performing secret marriages for love-struck couples.

By the Middle Ages, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France, for his symbolism of love.

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