Saudi Arabia, one of the most developed countries in the Middle East with lots of tourist attractions, is at the moment planning to issue its first official tourist visas from April 1st, 2018; this is according to reports citing tour operators. Officials say the tourism program is a plan to allow non-Muslim tourists the opportunity to visit sites of historical and traditional importance in the Kingdom.
Many places in Saudi Arabia have sites which can serve as tourists’ attractions. Locations in Jeddah, Riyadh and the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh in the Arabian Desert are just some of the scenic places that tourists may wish to visit.
If it goes successfully as planned, then this will be the first time that the kingdom will be issuing visas specifically for tourism, this despite the fact that other tourists have been previously allowed to enter Saudi Arabia for other purposes, such as religious, businesses and personal visits.
Andrea Ross, United States Director at Wild Frontiers said many people have heard so much about Saudi Arabia relating to religion, politics and most importantly business. Madam Ross enjoined would- be travelers to see beyond the news and instead focus on the good and lively people of Saudi Arabia as well as the wonderful and amazing historical sites that the kingdom offers as the major attractions to the country.
Wild Frontiers, a tour operator that specializes in travel to destinations such as Pakistan and the Caucasus-a region in Europe comprising Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, is planning its first visits to Saudi in November this year.
Mada’in Saleh, featuring a number of spectacular rock-cut tombs, is similar in style to the Nabataea sites at Petra. And a visit to the Red Sea town of Jeddah, where no one was previously allowed except Saudi families, is a scenic location of sun, sea and good breeze.
The capital of Riyadh and the Sarawat Mountains, close to the border with Yemen is known for its brick stone towers. This unique form of style used to be a highlight of any trip to Yemen. And with Yemen now closed as a result of the war there, visiting the towers within Saudi Arabia offers a wonderful opportunity.
According to a company which takes visitors to Saudi Arabia, conditions and requirements need to be met before getting the tourist visa. One such condition is that there need to be four or more people traveling together before they can secure tourist visas. The visas will need to be attested by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, meaning, you will still need to book through a registered tour operator in the country to obtain the visa.
As Saudi believes that women should not travel alone, foreign women below 25 years of age would only be allocated a visa if they travel with someone else. Ross stressed that women need to wear the Saudi traditional attire and stay with their groups during visits.
Despite the opening of the tourism sector, non-Muslims will not be allowed to visit the holy sites of Mecca and Medina; in compliance with long held Saudi principles.