Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said, “Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country.
Saudi Arabia will offer tourist visas for the first time, relaxing the ultra-conservative kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.
Kick-starting tourism is one of the centralized attraction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
The announcement comes just two weeks after devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. “Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement. “Visitors will be surprised by the hidden treasures and natural resources we have to share. Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty will attract International Tourists in the areas of Adventure, Life Style, Heritage, Sporting, Cultural MICE & Nature lover Tourists groups and Individuals.
Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, Bloomberg News quoted Khateeb as saying.
Khateeb said the kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.
Visas are currently restricted to expat workers, their dependents and Muslim pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina also known as Haj Pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia last year began issuing visas to visitors to attend sporting and cultural events in a bid to kickstart tourism.
Saudi Arabia has splurged billions in an attempt to build a tourism industry from scratch.
In 2017, the kingdom announced a multi-billion dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts. The country is also developing historic sites such as the centuries-old Mada’in Saleh, home to sandstone tombs of the same civilisation which built the Jordanian city of Petra.
Capital city: Riyadh.
Currency: Saudi riyal (in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 notes).
Cuisine: Eastern cuisine at it’s finest: you’ll find lots of rice, lamb, chicken, yoghurt and dates.
Tipping etiquette: It’s not expected, but it’s polite to do so.
Saying hello: Use the Arabic greeting, “as-salamu ‘alaykum”. Listen to locals to get a feel for the pronunciation.
WHEN TO GO: Many people choose to visit Saudi Arabia between November and February to enjoy the cooler temperatures. But there’s no reason not to come in summer, especially as everywhere is air-conditioned – and it’s fresher in the Asir Mountains all year round. If you’re visiting during the Hajj, make sure to respect the religious customs.
Before you plan your trip to Saudi Arab, you must explore and get an insight Laws and Legal hassles, such as LAW of the LAND:
Saudi Arabia is a devout Islamic country and still governed under strict Sharia law, which is derived from several Islamic texts including the Quran. If an act is committed within Saudi Arabia which is suspected to be ‘haram’, or capable of leading the perpetrator away from the Islamic faith, then this is enough for a trial to take place. As there are no official written rules for Sharia, the judge at each individual trial must interpret the law at their own discretion.
In addition to a regular police force, Saudi Arabia is also policed by the muttawa, a group of volunteers and officers who enforce Sharia codes of morality and report to the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice overseen by the Saudi Royal family. Their presence on Saudi streets is especially felt during daily prayer time (around 20 minutes, five times a day), when they tend to question anyone out on the streets and send them towards the nearest mosque.
Women must be accompanied by a male relative in public, although Jeddah is more relaxed. Banks and restaurants have separate areas for men and for families.
Problems with the muttawa are easy to avoid if travelers practice discretion. Private practice of another religion besides Islam is not illegal in the country, and travelers are even allowed to bring religious texts such as a bible into the country as long as it is for private use. However, visitors should keep in mind that openly preaching or advocating a religion other than Islam is a crime, along with many other activities they may take for granted in their home country.
|Makkah Clock Royal Tower||King Abdul Aziz Endowment
Abraj Al Bait Complex
P.O. Box 762
Maps & Directions
TEL + (96612) 571 – 7444
Situated only 100 m from Masjid al-Haram, this 76 storey luxury hotel is one of the tallest buildings in the world and is inside Makkah Clock Tower.
|Pullman ZamZam Makkah Hotel||Abraj Al Bait Complex
King Abdel Aziz Endowment
|Riyadh Marriott Hotel||King Saud Rd, District, Riyadh 11464, Saudi Arabia•+966 11 477 9300||Book Online|