As you wake up on Christmas morning, thank your lucky stars that you’re in a country celebrating festivities and not in a strict nation in the middle of the desert!
For most people, Christmas is the happiest time of the year, and a great way to spend some quality time with family and loved ones. But while a lot of the world shuts down for Christmas on December 25 each year, there are some countries where the very mention of the “C-Word” will get you into all kinds of trouble. Let’s examine 5 of the worst places to be during the Christmas period (and for the sake of fairness I haven’t just listed 5 places from the Middle-East; I’ve tried to vary the regions):
5. In Thailand, although there is a small Christian minority in the capital Bangkok, December 25 passes as just another day, with no real effort made whatsoever. Thailand is a Buddhist kingdom, and there is no national holiday on December 25. With so many tourists in the country, you’d think there may be something official going on for Christmas, but no, you will have to organise it yourself!
4. In Qatar even though it is known (along with Kuwait and Bahrain) as one of the more tolerant Islamic states, it is still very much frowned upon to celebrate Christmas in public. Some international hotels will have trees and the odd festivity on display, but it is not wise to preach your dedication to Christ on December 25 in this Muslim country.
3. In Turkey, Christmas Day usually passes as just any other day in this predominantly Muslim country. While small enclaves of Christian people do exist, most people spend the day sightseeing down the Bosphorus or visiting one of Istanbul’s many awesome mosques – and you won’t see any reference to Santa in those!
2. In the Maldives, the population is 99% Muslim, so you won’t find any mention of Christmas. However, it’s not an overly horrible way to spend the festive period on stretches of white sand beaches and swimming in crystal clear waters. Some luxury hotels may have the odd Christmas tree to keep you happy, but things are very much kept low-key – and if you’re truly longing for those Christmas lights, just throw on some scuba gear and dive down to witness the vibrant colours of the Maldives’ famous coral reefs!
1. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to celebrate Christmas, and it has been known for the authorities to imprison people for daring to plot to celebrate the day, regardless of their religion. As one of the most difficult places to live in the world anyway for a westerner, expats are kept in their own living compounds and kept segregated from the Muslim community. Any attempt to celebrate the birth of Christ, even in your own compounds, is strictly frowned upon.
Tis the season to be jolly! Merry Christmas to everybody!