The Tenacity of Valentine’s Day

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO Middle East Correspondent


It’s that time of year again when scores of Islamic nations around the world place a ban on Valentine’s Day. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, the day that celebrates the life and matchmaking skills of a Roman priest named Valentine is banned. However, not all Middle Eastern countries have banned the day that love most certainly rules. Countries like Kuwait and Oman, for example, mimic the holiday as it is celebrated in the West.

In the Arab world, it’s primarily up to the men to hustle and bustle to present their beloved with roses, chocolates and more. For many, the sky is the limit when it comes to proving their love on Valentine’s Day. And, just like in the West, the man’s immediate happiness often depends on the quality and quantity of gifts that he bears. For this reason, many stores in the region put up special Valentine’s displays mid-January and import a host of love-themed merchandise to sell. Florists, in particular, credit Valentine’s Day with generating the bulk of annual profits.

However, one country stands apart from the rest in marking Valentine’s Day with an unprecedented air of extravagance regardless of the overwhelming belief in the Islamic world that celebrating Valentine’s Day is contrary to Islam.  In the UAE, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with great fanfare that has citizens and visitors alike painting the town a crimson shade of “red”. In the run up to the actual day, jewelry and perfume stores offer a wide array of special promotions to lure romantic customers in the door. Five-star hotels in the UAE boast specially prepared banquets for couples on Valentine’s Day complete with a decadent dessert menu that would make Cupid blush in envy.

And while couple’s are usually the only ones who enjoy Valentine’s Day, several UAE establishments cater exclusively to singles. Nightclubs, especially, provide a host of activities geared specifically for singles. Comedy shows, live concerts and dancing are just some of the activities for the lovelorn in the UAE this Valentine’s Day. 

As for the countries where Valentine’s Day has been banned, shop owners and customers will undoubtedly celebrate regardless of governmental restrictions or threat of punishment. In Saudi Arabia, for example, a black market exists for red roses and other Valentine’s paraphernalia to ensure that those wishing to celebrate the day can do so according to their preferences.


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