Saudi Arabia bans sale of red roses
The sale of red roses and red gifts has been banned by Saudi Arabia's religious police in the run-up to Valentine's Day, reports a local newspaper.
Officials from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice warned flower and gift shops to remove all red items, including roses and wrapping paper, from their shelves.
"They visited us last night," an unidentified florist told the Saudi Gazette. "They gave us warnings and this morning we packed up all the red items."
In Riyadh, the ban came into force on Sunday and will remain until after February 14.
The authorities believe celebrating Valentine's Day is un-Islamic and encourages relations out of wedlock, which are strictly forbidden.
The crackdown has pushed up the price of the flowers on the black market, with some florists making deliveries in the middle of the night, the paper said.
Couples defying the ban placed orders for red roses weeks before the deadline. Some were sending online Valentine's cards, and others were planning to celebrate the day in neighbouring countries, such as Bahrain, which has a more liberal approach to Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia imposes a strict code which prevents unmarried men and women from socialising together. Relations outside marriage are banned and punishable by law.