Saudi Arabia is a fascinating country with a rich culture and a long history. While it is known for being conservative, there is also a humorous side to life in the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded in 1932, is the birthplace of Islam and home to the religion’s two holiest sites – Mecca and Medina. This conservative Islamic nation has a strict moral code and unique culture. However, behind its serious exterior lies a nation filled with amusing quirks and funny facts waiting to be discovered.
1. Yoga is Banned Because it is Considered “Un-Islamic”
While yoga has become a popular exercise around the world, it is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Why? Because it is considered to go against Islamic teachings. The government believes the spiritual elements of yoga, like chanting and meditation, are not compatible with Islam. As a result, yoga studios and gyms cannot offer yoga classes in the Kingdom.
Who knew a downward dog could be so controversial? The ban on yoga is truly one of Saudi Arabia’s more amusing decrees. Just don’t get caught doing sun salutations in the streets of Riyadh!
2. Snowmen Were Banned in January 2015
After a rare snowfall in the desert nation, a cleric issued an unusual fatwa (religious ruling) banning snowmen. He reasoned that building snowmen was un-Islamic and could promote idolatry 2. Residents were told they could be punished for creating a snowman.
Of all things to prohibit after a fun snow day, snowmen seem like an odd choice. But in Saudi Arabia, you won’t see Frosty anytime soon. The bizarre snowman ban is good for a laugh!
3. Harry Potter is Banned
The Harry Potter books have sold over 500 million copies worldwide, making the boy wizard a beloved figure across the globe. But in Saudi Arabia, Harry and his magical pals are banned.
The government prohibits the Harry Potter books for promoting witchcraft. Of course, the spells and potions in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series are purely fictional. However, Saudi officials still deemed the books inappropriate, to the dismay of kids and Potterheads everywhere.
4. Women Can’t Buy Barbie Dolls
The iconic Barbie doll is surprisingly controversial in Saudi Arabia. Why? Well, female dolls are considered a threat to morality. Religious authorities argue the dolls objectify women and promote values that go against Islam.
As a result, the country has banned the sale of Barbie dolls and other female toys. While women and girls cannot buy or own Barbies, male dolls like G.I. Joe are perfectly fine.
The Barbie ban is an absurd example of how strict gender roles can be in Saudi society.
5. Driving a Car as a Woman Was Illegal Until 2018
It’s hard to believe, but until June 2018, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that still banned women from driving. The driving ban was seen as an extreme example of limitations on women’s rights.
When the ban was finally lifted, it was a major milestone for Saudi women. However, the fact that simply operating a vehicle was illegal for women until just a few years ago seems completely preposterous today.
6. Only Camels from Australia are Allowed
As a desert country, you would think Saudi Arabia has plenty of camels. But surprisingly, the government relies on imported camels from Australia to meet demand!
Saudi camels are not as good for dairy and meat production. So bizarrely, the country allows only Aussie camels within its borders. Who knew Saudi Arabia was so picky about its camels?
7. Divorce Rates Spike After Major Soccer Events
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, major soccer tournaments also cause surges in divorce rates. After losses in World Cup games, divorce filings notably increased.
Devoted fans get so distraught over defeats that they take it out on their marriages! The link between soccer and divorce rates is one of the more amusing facts about Saudi life.
8. There are “Anti-Witchcraft” Police
Believe it or not, Saudi Arabia has a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” within its religious police force. Sorcery is considered a serious spiritual crime in the Kingdom. Anyone accused of magical practices like fortune telling or casting spells can face arrest.
The special witchcraft division seems like something out of medieval times. But in Saudi Arabia, magic is no laughing matter – it’s considered a grave sin.
9. Valentine’s Day is Banned
February 14th is banned in Saudi Arabia because it is deemed an un-Islamic holiday. The country simply does not acknowledge Valentine’s Day or allow any related celebrations.
No cards, chocolates, roses, or romance is permitted on this lovey-dovey holiday. The Saudi version of Valentine’s Day is a bit of a let-down!
10. There are No Rivers in the Country
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river. Hard to fathom for such a vast nation, but it’s true – no permanent rivers are flowing above ground.
The lack of rivers is due to the arid desert climate and the absence of drainage basins. Most of the nation’s freshwater comes from underground aquifers or desalination plants.
So next time you’re paddling down a river, think about how Saudi Arabia doesn’t have even one river to enjoy!
11. Public Movie Theaters were Banned Until 2018
Going to the movies seems like a universal pastime. However, until April 2018, public cinemas were prohibited in Saudi Arabia for over 35 years.
Conservative clerics viewed commercial movie theaters as immoral and un-Islamic. So for decades, Saudis had to travel abroad to see films.
Finally allowing movie theaters after all those years seems like an overdue but welcome change.
12. Women Must Wear an Abaya in Public
The abaya is a long, loose black robe that covers a woman’s entire body. Saudi law requires all women to wear an abaya in public, along with a headscarf.
To Western eyes, wearing an abaya in the desert heat seems quite uncomfortable. But Saudi women have grown accustomed to the strict dress code. For now, the abaya remains an essential part of female fashion.
From odd bans to wacky laws, Saudi Arabia certainly boasts some amusing quirks and funny facts. While the Kingdom is working to modernize, it still holds on to many conservative traditions that seem downright bizarre to outsiders.
But the Saudis have a unique culture that, despite its absurdities, bonds them as a nation. They maintain their values through unusual restrictions – like no rivers, no snowmen, and no yoga allowed!
Learning about Saudi Arabia’s more hilarious side shows that even conservative places have room for laughter. Although the country takes faith seriously, it still has its brand of quirky humor.
So next time you read a zany story from Saudi Arabia, appreciate the comedic value in their cultural differences. The Kingdom surely provides plenty of amusing material to make you chuckle!