Albania offers visa-free entry to attract GCC tourists

A scenic view of Berat city, which welcomes foreign tourists throughout the year.
Updated 01 May 2018

Albania offers visa-free entry to attract GCC tourists

  • Albania has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection
  • Hospitality is an old Albanian tradition and foreigners are always treated with special respect

JEDDAH: Its natural beauty, geographical position and enjoyable Mediterranean climate make Albania an attractive European destination the whole year around.

These factors increased the number of foreign tourists visiting the country in 2017 to more than 5.2 million. 

Recently, Albanian tourism has grown, resulting in the offer of travel packages that allow its most precious traits to shine, such as “sun and sea tourism,” “history and culture tourism,” “mountain tourism,” and other growing fields.

According to Albanian Ambassador Sami Shiba, “The citizens of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar can enter Albania without a visa from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2018.” 

Albania has a considerable coastline, 450 km long, which extends along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, where within minutes tourists can experience the mountain climate of Llogara and the warmth of the coast of Dhermi.  Besides the beaches, the Adriatic coast is rich with lagoons and natural ecosystems. The Ionian coastline is known for its fascinating beaches with deep and very clean waters. One of the most exciting tourist areas of the country is the Albanian Riviera, where the sun stretches across the deep sea, the splendid configurations of rocky and isolated small beaches, the mountains and hillsides covered in Mediterranean vegetation. This is the warmest region of Albania, and is blessed with 300 days of sun. The city of Saranda is the most populous city on the Riviera and is a big tourist destination, especially preferred by newly married couples on their honeymoon. The city is positioned well upon the coast in that it is only 9 km from the island of Corfu.

Albania is rich in natural water sources: Rivers, lakes, and a long maritime coastline. Two of the most significant ecosystems are the lakes of Shkodra and Ohrid, recognized by the RAMSAR Convention and UNESCO. Albania is also rich in springs and streams. Four springs remarkable for their natural beauty are the Blue Eye in Saranda, Cold Water in Tepelena, Viroi in Gjirokastra, and Syri i Sheganit at Lake Shkodra.

Albania has important resources for the development of tourism in its mountainous areas. The Albanian Alps to the North, the mountains along the Ionian Sea, the Kruje, Berat and Elbasan mountains offer great opportunities for tourists during the year, including the winter, which has a mild climate. Albania offers very traditional housing in its mountainous regions, allowing for cultural immersion. Mostly you will stay in old traditional stone houses called “Kulas,” where the local hosts spoil you with home-cooked bread, honey, cheese and delicious homemade dishes, all made from their own domestic produce.

The Peaks of the Balkans Trail region, which belongs to the Alpine border region between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, is a destination rising in popularity with tourists around the world.

Albania has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection.

Butrint, in the south of Albania, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered as one of the most wondrous places on earth. Two other Albanian cities on the UNESCO World Heritage List, renowned for their specific architectural style, are Berat and Gjirokastra. The rich history will leave any interested foreign visitors pleasantly surprised. 

Albania is a safe country for tourists. The people are very open toward foreign visitors. Hospitality is an old Albanian tradition and foreigners are always treated with special respect.

Beside the hospitality that has been highly regarded by travelers for centuries, Albania is rich with traditions and folklore. During your visit through ethnographic museums and artistic folkloric activities, you will be able to enjoy this wealth inherited over the centuries that still blossoms nowadays.

For Saudi travelers who want to come to Albania there aren’t any specific requirements. During the summer period, from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2018, Saudi citizens can travel to Albania without visas. 

All that is needed is a valid passport.

Delightful Delhi: a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping

Delightful Delhi:a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping. (Shutterstock)
Updated 9 min 1 sec ago

Delightful Delhi: a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping

  • New Delhi is where India’s rich, complex history collides with its post-modern ambitions
  • The best way to discover this great city is through its food, temples and shopping streets

DUBAI: Mirza Ghalib once poetically quoted his own soul as saying: “The world is the body and Delhi is its heart.”

Lofty as the claim is, there are probably few better ways to describe this chaotic, colorful city, where India’s rich, complex history collides with its post-modern ambitions, where the country’s power players live minutes from abject poverty, where many different cultures, cuisines and faiths seamlessly coexist. For such extreme contrasts to find a rhythmic harmony, heart needs to be a big part of the equation.

While there are guidebooks aplenty to show you around the many historical sights, the incredible architecture, and the museums and art of Delhi, the best way to discover the heart (and soul) of this great city is through its food, temples and shopping streets.

Delhi’s finest food can arguably be found at Indian Accent. Regularly ranked as India’s best restaurant in various awards, this upscale eatery is one of the pioneers of modern Indian dining, offering an inventive take on traditional Indian flavors, and combining them with European-style finesse. There are many others doing similar things in India now, but under the stewardship of celebrated executive chef Manish Mehrotra, Indian Accent continues to maintain its podium finish status.

The contemporary, intimate venue oozes understated sophistication — with not a hint of Indian kitsch in sight — providing the perfect setting for the seasonal menus. An amuse-bouche could include delicate carrot shorba (soup), aloo tikki (potato croquettes) and mini dhoklas (steamed fermented rice cakes), while a must-try dish is the restaurant’s refined take on that quintessential street food phuchka (‘potato spheres’ stuffed with spicy mashed potato and doused in flavored waters — served here as shooters in five different flavors). Best to place your trust in the chefs however, and try the degustation menu (which should include their signature dessert, daulat ki chaat, an Old Delhi classic of chilled mousse-like cream; but if it doesn’t, ask for it).

Elsewhere, Lavash by Saby — a classic example of Delhi’s multi-faceted dining scene — specializes in the delicious micro-cuisine of Bengal Armenians. This trendy venue is located in the chic precinct of Mehrauli.

Delhi is home some of India’s largest Hindu temples and mosques, but the non-denominational Bah’ai Lotus House is my top recommendation for those seeking some spirituality. Acclaimed for its unique lotus design — not dissimilar to the Sydney Opera House — the white marble temple is worth visiting as much for its award-winning architecture as for the tranquility that suffuses its atmosphere. Bah’ai temples welcome everyone, without discrimination, and this is a true oasis, offering a welcome respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

For more wonderful architecture, visit the “spiritual-cultural campus” of Akshardham. It’s a relatively modern structure among the thousands of ancient temples across India, but what it may lack in historic value, it more than makes up for in the beauty of its buildings and their surroundings. The impressive architecture incorporates a variety of traditional styles, and Akshardham provides a diversity of attractions for visitors, from exhibitions to its stunning gardens.

If you’re looking for retail — rather than spiritual — therapy, Delhi runs the gamut of options, from designer boutiques to street-side stalls. To shop like a local, head to Mehar Chand Market, the city’s latest retail district. A (relatively) recently gentrified precinct, this neighborhood market has replaced its groceries and tailoring shops with chic stores, all with a distinct skew toward the indie and artisanal. Amidst the quirky street art, the stylishly updated heritage shophouses are now home to handspun garments in Ekmatra, unique homeware in Nicobar, eclectic designs in The Shop, plus boutiques by a new brigade of Indian designers including Masaba. The enclave is also emerging as a dining hub, with venues such as Altitude Café (a healthy eatery offering locally-inspired gourmet goodies) punctuating the stores.

Also popular among Delhi’s trendsetters is Hauz Khas Village — a historic complex in which the medieval-era buildings now house an achingly hip selection of designer boutiques, galleries and cafés.

Even if you’ve only got a few days to spare, a trip to this thriving city should satisfy any visitor, regardless of their aims. Delhi really does have something for everyone, and fully justifies Ghalib’s lofty claims on its behalf.