Love in a warm climate: the Middle East rolls out the romance for Valentine’s

Published February 13th, 2013 - 12:18 GMT

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Saudi religious police
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Image 1 of 8: Usually the bane of any Romeo’s plan, the Saudi religious police have been laying off this year, promising to allow flower shops to stay open for Valentine’s. However, a dozen red roses still doesn't mean you can engage in hand holding or public kissing - still very much haram for the Muttawa.

Dubai Valentine
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Image 1 of 8: No surprise that the UAE has managed to commercialize Valentine’s plans. So much for true romance, in Dubai a gift for your loved one will set you back a hefty Dhs 100,000 (US$27,225). But you will get a private dinner and a Rolls Royce for your trouble.

Valentine Rafiq Hariri
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Image 1 of 8: For the ladies of Lebanon, everyday is Valentine’s Day, so on February 14 itself, there are more pressing matters to attend to. The date coincides with the assassination of PM Rafiq al Hariri; which means that the Lebanese turn out in droves every year to march through the capital in a display of less love parade and more political protest.

Egypt Valentine
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Image 1 of 8: Land of Pharaohs and political firsts, Egyptians like to do things their own way. The Gods of love have decided to re-arrange the date in this North African Nation, where would-be Romeos will be getting in their hearts and candy for November 4 rather than February 14.

Syria FSA marriage
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Image 1 of 8: Never mind the war, Syrians still need romance in their lives and for a few brave couriers, that means delivery gift baskets through crumbling buildings and sniper shots. For the most courageous couples, even the prospect of death hasn’t been enough to put them off saying their vows in public.

Libya revolution
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Image 1 of 8: A few trifling chocolates and a handful of roses won’t be troubling Libyans this year, who plan to celebrate the anniversary of their revolution on the same week as Valentine’s. Looks like love for their newly democratic country will win over the kind that requires dinner dates.

Rai concert Algeria
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Image 1 of 8: Algerians might have a hard time celebrating the day of love in public but they know where to turn to for a romantic moment. The traditional ‘Rai’ singers have been leading the way, letting those macho Algerian men show their softer side to their Valentine.

Israel flowers Valentine
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Image 1 of 8: Yom Ahava is the day of love for Israelis, who won’t be mixing their messages by referring to a Christian saint. From ‘Traffic Light’ parties in Tel Aviv to the more traditional prayers in Jerusalem, Israelis love a good ode to romance.

A region of political conundrums and violent conflicts isn’t the obvious choice of venue for the day of romance, St. Valentine’s. But the Middle East is not without its would-be Romeos - and Juliets - leaving Arabs to celebrate the occasion in their own way.

For some countries, the Western style of dinner and handholding is just not for them but that doesn’t mean that the romantics of the region won’t be stocking up on flowers and chocolates for their special someone. Even the notorious Saudi religious police are going easy on the Kingdom’s lovers this year, promising to leave florists alone to get in their red roses.

In the UAE, couples seemed to determined to prove the “money can’t buy you love” saying wrong. Dubai lovers are looking to shell out as much cash as possible for a bling-filled day. While in Lebanon, traditional party hotspot of the Middle East, residents will be striking a more sombre tone, marching through the capital to commemorate the death of a prime minister, rather than heading to the clubs.

Determined to do it their own way, Egyptians will be celebrating the day on November 4, rather than February 14 while Israelis have changed the name entirely to avoid any potential Christian references. And despite the raging civil war, Syrians are still keen to keep the romance up, hosting weddings amidst the rubble and getting loved ones to send in chocolates from abroad.

So while it may not be a traditional Valentine’s spread, the Middle East will be laying on the schmultz just as thick as anywhere else this February.

 

Should Valentine’s Day be banned in the Arab World? Is it sickly sweet or a time for real romance? Tell us what you think below.

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