Before 2018 in Saudi Arabia, Valentines Day was “an old tradition kept in the dark” and not openly celebrated by Saudis, instead being secretly observed by citizens in the privacy of their homes.
Then, last year, Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, former president of the Saudi “religious police” or Ha’ia, endorsed Valentine’s Day celebrations for the first time in the Kingdom, saying that celebrating Valentine’s Day does not contradict Islamic teachings, and that celebrating love is not limited to non-Muslims, according to Arab News.
“Red roses are no longer hidden in flower shop backrooms, and heart-shaped chocolates are no longer sold under the counter on Valentine’s Day,” writes Arab News. “As a result, Valentine’s Day is becoming very lucrative for businesses, especially flower shops, restaurants, cafes, cosmetic clinics and beauty salons. Chocolate and gourmet food brands, such as Godiva, have prepared Valentine’s Day products.”
One Riyadh-based Bloomberg reporter, Donna Abu Nasr, confirmed a noticeable change in the attitude of shopkeepers and others in the Saudi capital in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.
“The runup to the annual lovers’ day used to be a tense time in Saudi Arabia, as businesses dodged the authorities to mark an occasion banned by the religious establishment. But what was once Valentine’s contraband, sold covertly to carefully selected customers, is now creeping into the Saudi mainstream.”
The statement from Al-Ghamdi, combined with an atmosphere of progress across Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom continues with Vision 2030 economic and social reforms, meant that for the first time, Saudis are starting to enjoy Valentine’s day without the once-standard secrecy.