Happy valentine's day to all you lovers out there. May your day be filled with romantic poems, red roses, kisses and all that jazz.
Here in Riyadh, this week merchants have been warned against selling red roses and anything red and/or heart shaped for Valentine's day. Celebration of this pagan holiday is really frowned upon, especially since the romantic theme inevitably sweeps young unmarried men and women together for a wild night of raunchy trysts at rendezvous points throughout the city. These sordid affairs usually consist of non-wining and dining at a nice restaurant, followed by going home (recklessly!) and sleeping (recklessly!) I jest but it doesn't bother me that much being a married woman. Hey, it ain't my country.
As I understand it many of the devout here in Riyadh, which I must underscore is very conservative, really believe in only celebrating the two Eids - a month of festivities at the end of Ramadan and a shorter one at the end of Hajj, the annual pilgramage to Mecca. These two festive periods are celebrated in relatively close proximity to each other on the calendar. In comparison, we have Christmas and New Years, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween and I'll throw in birthdays because I've heard that the religious in riyadh don't celebrate them. I'll also throw in Canada Day and Victoria day...so let's just say we've got "excuses to have parties" kind of covered over the year. I can see how it might look a bit excessive. But man oh man if there's one kind of excessive I don't mind being accused of it's having too much fun! The good thing is that because we live on compounds and have access to the diplomatic quarter, we don't have to miss these celebrations as long as it stays respectfully on the down low and within our own communities - well hey, that's a compromise I am willing to take.
2 weeks ago