Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on internet phone calls as a way to drive investment and diversify the country's economy, which is highly dependent on oil sales.

The ban on Skype, WhatsApp and other applications' calls was lifted by the new Crown Prince, seen by some as the figure who can bring about economic reforms in the country.

Saudi Arabia is known for restricting people's freedoms – including of expression and religion – and for being the only country in the world that has a driving ban for women.

However, there are other peculiar bans the Kingdom has implemented over the years that might be lesser known.

Here are six of the strangest bans currently in place in Saudi Arabia:

Harry Potter

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Harry Potter books and films were banned in the country as authorities claimed they contained "Satanic" themes, violence and had an anti-family attitude.

The country has also an anti-witchcraft police unit, set up in 2009, to promote awareness on the matter and investigate people accused of sorcery.


Saudi teen macarena
The teen performed a well-rehearsed rendition of the Macarena storyful screengrab

Both Western music and dancing have been outlawed in the Kingdom, which employs the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), in charge of making sure citizens follow rules.

Earlier this year, a Saudi teenager was arrested after performing the popular Macarena move at a pedestrian stop in the city of Jeddah. Police said the boy was detained for disrupting traffic and violating public morals.

The boy's arrest came just weeks after Saudi singer Abdallah Al Shaharani was arrested after performing 'the dab' move on stage. The artist later apologised.

Dabbing is performed by tucking one's head into the crook of their arms. Authorities consider it as a referennce to smoking highly potent cannabis oil.

In 2015, two men and two women caught dancing and singing at a party in a beach resort in were sentenced to dig graves and visit intensive care patients.


The electronic and collectible card games were first banned in 2001. Last year, clerics renewed the fatwa – or religious edict – arguing that the games represented forms of gambling, and were therefore forbidden in Islam.

The second ban came after three people caught playing Pokemon Go at the King Abdullah airport were arrested. All in their mid-20s, the men were nabbed for illegally using their phones in the restricted area.

Valentine's Day

Valentine Day Celebrations in Pictures

Saudis are not allowed to celebrate Valentine's Day. However, some shops still sell red roses and other traditional items which couples tend to buy on this day, according to the BBC. Orders are usually placed by telephone, to avoid being caught by the police.

In 2014, five Saudis were sentenced to 39 years in prison as well as 4,500 lashes for holding a Valentine's Day party.

Western names

In 2014, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry banned 50 names that "contradict the culture or religion of the kingdom" or are" foreign" and "inappropriate". Names include Linda and Alice, Malaak (angel) or Basmala (utterance of the name of God).

The ministry justified the ban by saying that the names offend perceived religious sensibilities, are affiliated to royalty, and some are of non-Arabic or non-Islamic origin.

Cinema and concerts

Earlier this year, the country's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh upheld a ban on cinemas and concerts, arguing that attending such events could be harfulm and encourage the mixing of sexes among non-married people.