No Valentine Please

Members of the feared religious police were inspecting shops for red roses, heart-shaped products or gifts wrapped in red and ordering storeowners to get rid of them, the official said.

Red-coloured or heart-shaped items are legal at other times of the year, but as February 14 nears, they become contraband in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom bans celebration of Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day, named after a Christian saint said to have been martyred by the Romans in the 3rd century.

Most shops in Riyadh’s upscale neighbourhoods have removed all red items from their shelves.

Even birthdays and Mother’s Day are frowned on by the religious establishment, although people almost never get punished for celebrating them. AP