This year’s St. Valentine’s Day celebrations are in full swing in the largely conservative Saudi Arabia, after a year ago when a Saudi religious figure publicly spoke out in favour of the 14 February day.
Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, former president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca, asserted during one of his appearances on television that celebrating Valentine’s Day does not contradict Islamic dogmas, like was previously stated by religious police in 2016, and that Muslims are fully entitled to join in the feast of love and affection. He remarked that Valentine’s Day, in common with the internationally popular Mother’s Day, is marked worldwide as “a positive aspect of the human being”.
The rhetoric has since rendered St. Valentine’s Day-related businesses particularly lucrative, namely flower shops, beauty salons, jewellery stores and chocolatier corners.
Nadine Attar, a Saudi jewellery designer and the face of Nadine Jewellery, has dedicated a special line, “A Journey of Love” to Valentine’s Day, with the collection quoting lines from the Quran and well-known Arab poets like Khalil Gibran and Al-Mutanabi. Attar commented at length on the limited collection, featuring typical-for-the-occasion heart-shaped rubies encrusted into a gold base:
“I decided to use colours and symbols of love, hence the heart-shaped ruby stone, which is traditionally paired with white and yellow gold, but I chose rose gold instead as rose and red colours created a modern combination, and they go very well together in symbolizing the occasion”, Attar told Arab News.
Lingerie brand Nayomi, fitness centres such as Refit Gym and Fitaihi, a well-known Saudi jewellery brand, have also upheld the trend, coming up with a wealth of “very special occasion” discount offers for their clients. Even men are targeted: Attar has, for instance, produced special red aluminium cufflinks and cuff bracelets tipped in red, hoping that all of her assortment will become heirlooms.
Saudi-based eateries are also welcoming guests for St. Valentine’s meals, with the Foursquare City guide listing at least 15 romantic spots in Jeddah, affectionately referred to as the Bride of the Red Sea, namely French restaurant Le Traiteur, Zodiac Lounge in Al-Andalus, Italian restaurant Il Gabbiano, and others.