If you're interested in celebrating Halloween in KSA this year, here is all you need to know as an expatriate
18 September 2019| Last updated on 6 October 2020
This is what you need to know about celebrating Halloween in Saudi Arabia...
Saudi Arabia is no doubt a kingdom rooted in deeply religious and culturally conservative laws. The country has very strict policies when it comes to spaces where men and women mix if they aren't married and are not related by blood, hosting parties with both genders mixing and dancing, and non-Islamic celebrations.
Halloween is no exception. Considered as a Western celebration that promotes concepts of witchcraft, demons, and dressing up in "inappropriate attire", Saudi nationals, residents, and visitors are not allowed to publicly celebrate Halloween in KSA. Witchcraft is a punishable act in Saudi where the offender could face imprisonment and a fine.
In 2018, the Saudi police arrested more than 19 expats who were at a Halloween party in Riyadh. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (or the local morality police) claimed they had raided a house and arrested party attendees for loud music, "disorderly conduct", and "the use of masks and strange costumes".
Celebrating your own customs in Saudi Arabia
However, somewhat contrary to popular belief, Saudi Arabia permits its residents to follow their own religious beliefs while in the kingdom. Where the line draws is if you practice and celebrate it in public if it is not Islam.
Much like celebrating your own birthday, Halloween is banned in KSA as they are both viewed as Western creations and are "culturally inappropriate" activities forbidden in Islam. Although throwing a Halloween party or celebrating it in any way in public could very well land you in hot water, slightly less conservative cities such as Jeddah do have shops that openly sell celebratory props and other goods.
While the maintenance of public decency, peace, and virtue are enforced by the Saudi police, according to the law officers are not tasked with policing parties held within private residences unless public complaints are brought to attention.
Private celebrations have been held within homes for many decades, so long as residents respect and follow Saudi customs and laws. You may celebrate Halloween privately in your own residence so long as you do not mix unmarried men and women, use Halloween motifs and costumes, consume illegal beverages, or act in "witchcraft"-like behaviours.
However, on the safe side, it is highly advised not to.