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
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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.


Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

Crossing the unwelcoming terrain of the North Pole is not for the faint-hearted. Mariam Hamidaddin’s brave and inspirational journey to the top of the earth was ended by the threat of frostbite. Reuters
Updated 20 May 2018
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Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

  • Mariam Hamidaddin was one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions.
  • Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.

LONDON: Mariam Hamidaddin was skiing toward the North Pole in temperatures as low as minus 38 C when she was advised by her team leader to give up on her dream and take a helicopter back to base camp.
She did so reluctantly. Frostbite had taken its toll on the Jeddah-born entrepreneur’s hands, but with no previous experience of such climates, Hamidaddin was unaware of the severity. Only when she was assessed by a Russian medic who spoke pidgin English did she appreciate how close she was to losing her fingers.
“The words he told me were: ‘No chop’ ... which was scary but also a great relief to hear,” said Hamidaddin, one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions. Team leader Felicity Aston deliberately chose women with no athletic or Arctic experience with the intention of demonstrating that anybody can achieve their goals with determination.
As Hamidaddin discovered, however, having an expert on hand helps. The transition from frostnip to frostbite can be a matter of five or 10 minutes, so it is essential for people in extreme weather to pay attention to their body. The tiniest sign can help avoid severe consequences.
The 32-year-old had followed all the instructions learned during training camps in Iceland and Oman: She kept moving to circulate her blood and had not removed her gloves even once in the Arctic. She felt pain, yes, but the entire team had frostnip, so why should she consider quitting?
Fortunately for her future — and her fingers — the decision was taken for her.

Mariam Hamidaddin was an inspirational member of the North Pole expedition before a doctor’s verdict cut her journey short.


“There was no proper moment where I realized I had frostbite,” Hamidaddin told Arab News after returning to the heat of Saudi Arabia. “If it was up to me, I would have wanted to continue, so I am extremely thankful that I was asked to evacuate because the frostbite gradually got worse and worse.
Basically, the team leader saved my fingers.”
Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.
This month on her Instagram feed @InTuneToTheSound, she is posting photos of her journey in non-chronological order. The intention is to be “open and vulnerable and hopefully inspire people.” In a post, a video shows her typing at a computer using only her right pinky finger.
“There is a negative media perception of what a Saudi woman looks like and what she can and can’t do,” said Hamidaddin. “For this reason, it’s important for us to show that what you see in the media isn’t necessary a true reflection of who we truly are.
“It is also important to share our failures as well because when I see success upon success, I cannot connect with that. I am human, I have weakness and I fall, and I need to know that when I fall, I can rise again. Those stories are the ones that will connect most with people.”
With Saudi Arabia women now competing at the Olympic Games, being allowed to attend football matches at certain stadiums and the imminent lifting of a ban on driving, opportunities for women in the Kingdom are blossoming.
Hamidaddin, founder of the Humming Tree, a co-working space and community center that focuses on creativity and wellbeing, said she sees examples of strong, athletic and confident women every day.
“You can see them everywhere — women running, biking, climbing mountains,” she said.
“So we are already there. It’s just a matter of sharing these stories more. We are strong women; we know what we want and we find a way around it. We do what we need to do and we get it done. The fact that driving now is going to be open for us, just makes all that easier.”
Although Hamidaddin’s journey to the North Pole was cut short, the team’s doctor said she could wait out the expedition in the warmth of base camp and celebrate with her team when they reached their destination.
It was an opportunity that, even with frostbite, she was never going to turn down. What she found at the top of the world was a beautiful, dreamlike landscape — and, perhaps fittingly, a perpetual chase to reach her goal.
“Unlike the South Pole, which is a landmass, the North Pole is a constantly drifting landscape. It’s sea ice on top of the Arctic Ocean and it’s always moving, so you are constantly trying to catch it,” she said.
“One minute you’re on top of the world taking a photo and by the time you’re done taking it, well, the North Pole is a few miles away. You have to keep trying to catch it.”