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Red Rose Contraband

Red lips sofa by Salvador Dalí. A souvenir from Barcelona and flowers I got last summer.

Red lips sofa by Salvador Dalí. A souvenir from Barcelona and flowers I got last summer.

Many people who decided to live in another culture and who have done research on the internet before moving to their new home, may have found that some things ended up being different than expected upon arrival.

There are quite some things that appear strange about Saudi Arabia as well. A couple of months ago, I read that smart phones and (Barbie) dolls are banned in the kingdom. Once I found myself in a mall and on the street however, I saw smart phones that are even fancier and more expensive than the ones back home in Germany and buying a doll for you daughter is really not a big deal here. You can even get Barbie dolls in a headscarf and abaya no problem.

What did prove to be true however, was the ban of Valentine’s Day.  So I guess that herewith I will have to disappoint all of the westerners who were hoping to continue their Valentine’s habits in this country.

Anything red is forbidden on this day. Yes, even for non- muslims. If you plan to leave the house on February 14th, make sure you are not wearing anything red or have anything heart-shaped on you. The mutawa are especially attentive on this day and if you get caught, you will most likely be arrested.

Flower shops here are absolutely breath taking (that from the perspective of a woman). The first time I got a glance at the inside of a flower shop in Riyadh and saw all of the different types of flowers, my eyes became the size of Oreo cookies and were shining like Swarovski jewelery on a sunny day.  On Valentine’s Day however, you won’t find any red roses in there, unless you have some special connections and like to live dangerously.

So basically, for all the history knowers out there, red roses on Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia are like tomato ketchup in the German Democratic Republic. Not a good thing that you would usually buy under the table if you thought you needed it.

I have heard about quite some Saudi husbands who got flowers in advance, got them from embassies or bought them in the back rooms of shops. Sounds romantic at first but then, if you think about it, why being nice to your spouse only once a year on only one particular day? The year has 365 days after all.

This is where I remember a point made by one of my professors about  year ago. Be nice, act like a gentleman every now and then (any other day than Feb. 14th) and you won’t need to worry at all. Makes your life much easier instantly and gives the gesture much more meaning, doesn’t it?

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