54 Ways to say “I Love You”; in Africa


I Love You

I Love You

It’s the month of love!
Forget roses.

We’ve got 54 unique ways to show your love–one for each country within Africa.
And if you want to learn how to say “I love you” in 54 African languages, start practicing with our language list!

Algeria: Read a love poem written in French, one of the languages of Algeria

Angola: Give a back massage with palm oil, sourced in Angola

Benin: Listen to a bedtime story sung by Angelique Kidjo from Benin, a Grammy-Award winner

Botswana: Buy a piece of jewelry—maybe a ring?—with diamonds mined in Botswana



Burkina Faso: Serve a gluten-free sorghum beer, brewed in Burkina Faso

Burundi: Bake heart shaped cookies with sugar exported from Burundi

Cameroon: Make a ceramic heart-shaped dish, with the clay found in the highlands in Cameroon

Cape Verde: Drink Portuguese-style wine, made in the vineyards of Cape Verde

Central African Republic: Make a rich, vanilla-flavored tapioca pudding for dessert, made from cassava imported from Central African Republic

Chad: Listen to a love ballad played on a kinde, a harp from Chad

Comoros: Delight in a triple-thick vanilla milkshake, flavored with natural vanilla imported from the Comoros

Congo-Brazzaville: Learn to paint at the Poto Poto School of Painters in Brazzaville, Congo

Congo-Kinshasa: Watch the film When We Were Kings, about Mohammad Ali’s famous match against George Foreman in Kinshasa, known at the time as the famed “Rumble in the Jungle”

Cote d’Ivoire: Buy a gold mask to hang on the wall, from extensive collections crafted in Cote d’Ivoire

Djibouti: Get a hand-woven wool rug from Djibouti to keep your feet warm

Egypt: Purchase tickets to the Cairo International Film Festival

Equatorial Guinea: Drink a cup of osang tea, grown organically in Equatorial Guinea

Eritrea: Read My Father’s Daughter by Hannah Pool, a heartwarming book about an Eritrean girl adopted by a British family



Ethiopia: Wake up to the smell of coffee, made with beans sourced from Ethiopia

Gabon: Obtain a stone sculpture of a woman’s face, items for which Gabon’s artisans are famous

Gambia: Take a bird watching trip for two around MacCarthy Island, an ornithologically rich part of The Gambia.

Ghana: Serve authentic Ghanaian dark chocolate, the birthplace of the cocoa bean

Guinea: Take a stroll down the streets of Conakry at sunset

Conakry; Guinea

Conakry; Guinea

Guinea-Bissau: Pound away on a dried calabash, or gourd, which is used to make music in Guinea-Bissau

Kenya: Try purple tea sourced from Kenya, a country considered by connoisseurs to be among the best tea producers in the world

Lesotho: Travel to the Oxbow, one of the only places in Africa to go skiing

Liberia: Sing the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s Liberian Girl: “You know that you came and you changed my world”

Libya: Enjoy bazeen, an unsweetened cake made with barley flour and usually served with tomatoes and eggs

Madagascar: Purchase a blue sapphire gem, extracted from the sapphire mines of Madagascar



Malawi: Find a nyau mask, still used by the Chewa people for initiations and important events

Mali: Plan a romantic dinner with a desert view in Timbuktu

Mauritania: Hand make soft bed linens from the ultra soft tie-dyed cotton fabric from free-trade cooperatives in Mauritania

Mauritius: Have your hotel arrange a white linen and china dinner for two on the beach at sunset



Morocco: Buy a token of love in one of Morocco’s many souks

Mozambique: Experiment with a marimba, a type of xylophone native to the country

Namibia: Express your inner child by sandboarding down the sand dunes

Niger: Wrap yourself and your lover with a traditional hand-woven wedding blanket in colorful patterns

Nigeria: Listen to the soulful rhythm of Zombie, one of Fela Kuti’s most acclaimed albums

Rwanda: Perform the Intore, the most famous, traditional Rwandan dance for your loved one in private

Sao Tome and Principe: Savor Corallo Chocolate, voted by some to be amongst the world’s best organic chocolate

Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe

Senegal: Give your valentine a sand painting, made from Senegalese volcanic sand, beach sand, and dune sand

Seychelles: Visit the white, sandy beaches on the island of Mahe, while indulging in the French-African creole culture

Sierra Leone: Drink Star Beer, produced by the national brewer, Sierra Leone Breweries

Somalia: Read Crossbones by Nuruddin Farrah, a novel about a family returning to Somalia 

South Africa: Uncork a rich, red Merlot from the Cape winelands, and give your lover a bouquet of protea flowers, the national flower of South Africa

Sudan: Read the poem The Trees Have Passed, by formerly imprisoned poet Mahjoub Sharif

South Sudan: Take a rafting expedition along the White Nile river and get a glimpse of wildlife along the untraveled section of the Nile

Swaziland: Light your bedroom with the gentle and romantic glow from Swazi candles

Tanzania: Indulge in a konyagi, an indigenous, gin-like beverage

Togo: Hang a zota painting (which is made with scorched wood and smoke) made by Paul Ahyi, the designer of Togo’s flag



Tunisia: Visit a hammam, a traditional Tunisian public steam bath

Uganda: Take a romantic safari in one of Uganda’s many safari parks

Zambia: Wrap your gift in a tonga basket, which are woven by Tonga women, renowned for their weaving abilities

Zimbabwe: Propose to your loved one at Victoria Falls with a platinum engagement ring, with platinum exported from Zimbabwe.


Saudi Arabia: Kingdom of forbidden romance {…In a nation that bans Valentine’s Day, love still finds a way}


Saudi Arabia's religious police have banned red roses ahead of Valentine's Day

Saudi Arabia’s religious police have banned red roses ahead of Valentine’s Day

The shop clerk was reluctant to discuss the matter, but finally relented. They are not taking orders over the phone these days, he said. And customers who come in personally are advised that when they pick up their contraband purchase, it will be discreetly wrapped — in a black garbage bag.

The forbidden item? Red roses.

Valentine’s Day may be in the air, but it is mostly unseen in Saudi Arabia, where religious conservatives regard it as a pagan Western holiday alien to Muslim culture.

Enforcing this belief falls to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, whose agents are highly visible this week inspecting gift shops and florists for banned goods. That includes anything red, as well as hearts, cupids and teddy bears with tags that say “I love you.”

Anticipating unannounced visits from the mutawwa, as the moral police are known, most Riyadh retailers already have removed Valentine-related items from their shelves, stashing them in storage rooms or warehouses.

“I don’t have anything” that mentions love, said one shop owner who declined to be named. “It’s just too much trouble … People fall in love all year long, so there’s a market for this. But it’s just around Valentine’s Day that they don’t want people to celebrate.”

Faisal Abadoyo, a gift shop manager, said that the mutawwa remove “anything they want” from the shelves. “Maybe if you remove red colors, they will say pink colors are not allowed. Last year it happened to us, we removed all red (flowers) and they said the pinks also are not allowed.”

Abadoyo, who is Muslim, said he does not understand the ban. “There is no problem about love. You can love anybody. You love your Mama, your Daddy, your family … not only on Feb. 14, but all year long, you can love.”

The campaign against Valentine’s Day is an inconvenience for his many non-Muslim customers, Abadoyo added. “All kinds of people, all kind of religions, we have as customers here, Europeans, people from Asia, India, Africa.”

Despite the best efforts of commercial marketing, only a small, Westernized slice of the Saudi population is aware of Valentine’s Day. But the Saudi education department, a bastion of religious ultraconservatism, is taking no chances.

This week, it launched a “preventative” campaign to remind students of the need to steer clear of the holiday, local papers reported. Pupils were reminded of the fatwa or religious ruling from Saudi Islamic scholars declaring that Muslims only have two holidays a year, the religious feast days of Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr.

All other holidays are “heresies,” and Muslims should not celebrate or “demonstrate the least joy” during them, the ruling states. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day,” it adds, “is a violation of God’s laws.”

Many Saudis endorse the religious police, regarding them as principled Muslims seeking to hold back the infiltration of non-Islamic practices in the kingdom. A smaller segment of Saudi society feels differently, resenting them for imposing a puritanical lifestyle on others.

Last week, agents of the commission raided several Riyadh shops selling abayas, the loose-fitting black robes women are required to wear in the kingdom. They confiscated all abayas trimmed with decorations, such as sequins, according to Eman F. Al Nafjan, who reported the raid on her blog.

In one store, an agent “went through all the racks and grabbed anything that looked ‘worldy’ and decorative and stuffed them all in his bags,” Nafjan wrote after interviewing the shop’s clerk. The mutawwa’s vigilance against Valentine’s Day forces sweethearts to resort to all sorts of stratagems. Shop owners report that many people purchased gifts weeks ago, knowing they would be scarce later on.

Elaborate Valentine arrangements assembled from ribbons and artificial flowers in one shop were being stored out of sight in a large cardboard box, shown only to those who discreetly inquired.

One young Saudi woman reported that a friend, whom she describes as “generally a prude,” is “scheming to buy her significant other a gift” (without her parents knowledge of course).

“If someone like her is doing this,” the woman added in an e-mail, “then I can only imagine what others are planning.”

A young professional who wanted to be known only by his nickname, “Orange Head,” said he has no girlfriend right now, but that if he did, “I will buy some red roses for her, and sure I will tell her that it’s a special gift. Maybe it’s cheap but it means big things, between me and you.”

“Orange Head,” who is 25, added that he planned to attend a Valentine’s party, featuring music by an amateur Def Metal band, to be held at a friend’s week-end house on the desert outskirts of Riyadh.

Gatherings of boys and girls together listening to live music could bring a raid from the mutawwa, especially on Valentine’s Day.

“We said it’s a special party,” said “Orange Head,” “because on this day they circle every single place in Riyadh and capture people.”

But he plans to show up at the party, he said, even if it means living dangerously.

“I want to see people having fun.” Awwww!