Saudi Arabia announces female tourists will have more relaxed regulations

Previously all female travelers to the country had to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas to fall in line with the strict Muslim Kingdom’s ideals.

By
September 27, 2019 14:11
3 minute read.
 Participants take photos next to a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Mis

Participants take photos next to a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo credit: FAISAL AL NASSER/ REUTERS)

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will be opening up a new visa program for 49 different countries in addition to lifting certain restriction on the female dress-code for women entering the country as tourists.

Previously all female travelers to the country had to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas to fall in line with the strict Muslim Kingdom’s ideals.

While abayas and all-covering robes are no longer mandatory, modest dress attire is expected even while visiting beaches.

Saudi Arabia is hoping this move will attract foreign countries to invest in the tourism sector, as well as contribute to the GDP of the country by 10% yearly, rounding off in the year 2030.

These visas will be available to women travelers even without the presence of a male guardian, as was standard in the past, however, access to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina are off limits.

The government in recent years has relaxed strict social enigmas, both internationally and domestically, including lax dress requirements, the segregation of men and women in public places such as soccer stadiums as well as giving Saudi women the right to drive.

However, as alcohol remains banned, Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb states, "We will have enough tourists to come to Saudi Arabia to enjoy other things."

These plans have been discussed for years, yet shot down by conservative activists.

However, since Mohammed bin-Salman has risen to power, his ambitions are to less reliant on becoming the world powerhouse of crude oil, and open the Saudi society up to newly permitted forms of entertainment.

While many of his initiatives have received international praise his image has been tarnished due to the death and disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, from with inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince said he bears responsibility for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by Saudi operatives "because it happened under my watch," according to a PBS documentary to be broadcast next week.

It is the first time that Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, has publicly indicated personal accountability for the killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by operatives seen as close to him. The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe he ordered it, but Saudi officials say he had no role.

The death sparked a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince's image and imperiling ambitious plans to diversify the economy of the world's top oil exporter and open up cloistered Saudi society. He has not since visited the United States or Europe.

"It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch," he told PBS' Martin Smith, according to a preview of a documentary, "The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," set to air on Oct. 1, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi's death.

After initial denials, the official Saudi narrative blamed the murder on rogue operatives. The public prosecutor said the then-deputy intelligence chief ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, a royal insider who became an outspoken critic, but the lead negotiator ordered him killed after discussions for his return failed.

Saud al-Qahtani, a former top royal adviser whom Reuters reported gave orders over Skype to the killers, briefed the hit team on Khashoggi's activities before the operation, the prosecutor said.

Asked how the killing could happen without him knowing about it, Smith quotes Prince Mohammed as saying: "We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees."

Reuters contributed to this report.



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