Valentines's Day in Saudi Arabia.....
Isn't this just ridiculous???
With a waist-high, lipstick-red teddy bear poised outside his shop, it was hard for Mohammed to hide his Valentine's Day black market goods inside a mall in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
It was Saturday, the eve of Valentine's, and he was worried that the Saudi religious police, who call the holiday a heretical practice in Islamic society, would confiscate his red, pink and white stuffed bears and other gifts.
This is an annual battle between Saudi romantics and the feared Islamic police, or Muttawa, who earlier in the week sent out their yearly message warning that all things red would be seized the day before Valentine's.
Red cakes, red-dyed chocolates, the ever-popular stuffed bears and even red roses were strictly off-limits.
But shops and clients still schemed to make the best of the day, with telephone orders being made for bouquets and sweets for delivery from stock hidden in back rooms.
Couples looking for a romantic night out tried to skirt the kingdom's conservative Islamic laws, which ban unrelated men and women from socialising, and hunted for restaurants shielded from the watchful gaze of the Muttawa.
Or, said a single woman in her 20s, romantic dinners with the opposite sex were planned for the 13th or 15th.
"Two years ago we lost 6,000 roses," said Jeddah flower shop attendant Maher, counting the loss in several thousand dollars from the confiscations carried out by the Muttawa.
Red flowers and gifts were abundant in his shop on Friday but he said that early Saturday he would move the goods out of sight, and pray that the Muttawa would not come by.
"It's worth the risk, because it is good business," he said, noting that roses had doubled in price to 10 riyals (2.70 dollars) a stem this week, and could go higher by Sunday.
Asked what would happen if he was caught dealing in red roses under the counter, another florist crossed his wrists in the universal sign of being handcuffed.