Friday, February 15, 2008

Maldives takes Valentine's Day to heart

Unsigned love letters, flowers, tokens and trinkets of undying affection. This is not a page from a romantic novel, but how youngsters in the Islamic Republic of Maldives plan to celebrate Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day celebrations and marketing gimmicks have, according to many, reached a new high this year, with everything from mobile phones ringtones, to mood candles chocolates, clothes, body scrubs, perfumes and lingerie being sold in the name of "love".
Mobile phone operator Wataniya is offering subscribers a choice to order and deliver fresh roses to their sweethearts by simply sending a text message to a three digit number. For 50 rufiyaas, customers also get a choice of selecting between a red, pink or yellow rose, Wataniya informed in text messages sent to hundreds of customers.
City hotels in the capital island of Male are offering quiet candlelight dinners, with soft music and flowers. In a country where alcoholic drinks are out of bounds to locals for religious reasons, few restaurants are offering non-alcoholic wine to diners.
"I plan to give my girl friend some flowers, and a soft toy," said office worker Amjad Aneese as he browsed through a clothing store trying to figure out if he should also buy a pair of denim's for his girl friend.
A cosmetics shop selling imported cr̬mes, lotions and body scrub, is selling a red rose with a surprise gift Рan itsy bitsy teeny weeny red thong. "We have sold about 50 roses," said the 19-year-old shop assistant Nafiu Hussain.
Five minutes from speedboat to any of the 90 odd upmarket resort islands, it's a different story.
South Asia's most exotic honeymoon destination has lured extravagant romantic overseas visitors looking for the ultimate Valentine's experience to fill up resort rooms where guests pay up to 14,000 dollars a night to sleep in wooden cabins built over turquoise blue waters.
This collection of over a thousand tropical islands is already a year-round haven for loved-up couples who want to immerse themselves in themselves.
"We are here to spend a week to do a bit of scuba diving and just relax," said American Micheal Peat as he waited with his partner to board a seaplane to a resort where prices start from 1,600 dollars onwards for a night on Valentines Day week.
While most are careful not to flash their Valentines Day intentions, the country's religious followers see the occasions as yet another attempt to pollute the Maldivian culture and value system with what they see as western influence.
"Its sort of un-Islamic," said flight steward Mohamed Ashraf reflecting some views of this Sunni Muslim nation of 369,000 people. "It only benefits card shops and eating places."
Other conservatives see a Christian twist to the annual love day.
"Valentine's Day is a Christian based festival in that sense Muslims who follow the religion strictly don't observe the day," said Mauroof Hussain, a member of the ultra-religious Aadalath Party.
But such opposition is sporadic and does not enjoy any mass support in this country that is trying to stamp out Islamic extremism from flourishing in the archipelago.
Even those who are not necessarily taken in by the Valentine's Day hype concede that an annual "love feast" can do little harm.
"I don't have a boyfriend this year, but the girls in my department have planned to wear red to work on Thursday. No harm in having a little fun," grins office worker Farah Ahmed.


Saudi Sweetheart said...

Even in the blogosphere, less than 10 people wrote anything about Valentine's day. Shows how much Maldivians took the day to heart specially as most of the anti Islamic smartasses hang around there.

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