Saudi Tourism chief urges Arab countries to focus on tourism

Head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Tourism chief urges Arab countries to focus on tourism

  • The new sites belong to the pre-Islamic and early Islam eras and were found in three provinces including Bisha, Tathlith, and Balqarn

JEDDAH: Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) called on the Arab countries to increase cooperation in the field of tourism.
Speaking at the 21st session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Tourism on Monday in Egypt, he said a vibrant tourism sector could play a huge role in creating employment opportunities in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia, he said, is taking all measures to boost its tourism sector. The SCTH president said the recently launched tourist visa platform is part of the Kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy and promoting domestic and international tourism.
In a bid to end reliance on oil, the Kingdom is investing in tourism, aiming to increase spending by Saudis at home instead of on holidays abroad.
Encouraging visits to local places of beauty or interest is a key goal of Vision 2030 and the Kingdom has some world-class sites, some in remote areas, which are all but unknown outside the Kingdom.
The SCTH’s Asir office recently added records of 19 new archaeological sites to the National Antiquities Register.
SCTH official Mohammed Al-Umrah said the number of sites listed in the National Antiquities Register through their office in Bisha during this year has increased to 214.
The new sites belong to the pre-Islamic and early Islam eras and were found in three provinces including Bisha, Tathlith, and Balqarn.
The SCTH’s efforts to register heritage and archaeological sites to the Urban Heritage List fall under the Kingdom’s Cultural Heritage Care program that includes a system of projects and programs to develop, highlight and preserve national heritage sites.
Saudi Arabia’s five national treasures have already been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008, including Al-Ahsa oasis, Al-Hijr archaeological site (Madain Salih), Historic Jeddah and the rock art at Hail.
The fifth site, recognized by UNESCO in 2010, is Al-Turaif Historical District, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the 15th century. Located in the northwestern outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, it is one of the Kingdom’s oldest heritage sites, though its potential was only recognized relatively recently.


Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

Updated 25 April 2019
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Gruelling Dakar Rally route through Saudi Arabia’s ‘captivating’ deserts revealed by Sports Authority

AL-QADDIYA: More details about the Dakar Rally expected to take place in January 2020 in Saudi Arabia were released on Thursday by the Kingdom's General Sports Authority at an event in Al-Qaddiya.

The race starts on Jan. 5 in Jeddah, with the drivers set to race through Al-Madinah, Tabuk and Ha’il regions before a having a rest day in Riyadh. From the capital, the route winds its way back toward the coast through the Asir region and ends in the city of Al-Qaddiya on Jan. 12.

Speaking at the event, the chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal announced a 10-year partnership with the Dakar Rally, saying: "We want the world to see the captivating desert of Saudi Arabia and to get to know the good and hospitable people of the Kingdom that looks forward to receiving the world.

“Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030 of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

It was announced earlier this month that the race would be held in Saudi Arabia, and for the first time in the Middle East.

The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009. The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said when the race announcement was made: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally, while I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.”

CEO of Qiddiya project Michael Reininger said: "Qiddiya will soon become the centre of the motorsports world by virtue of an unparalleled collection of on track and off road facilities and a set of experiences and events that have never been assembled in one place before.”

The CEO of the rally's organizing company, Amaury Sport Organization, Yann Le Moenner thanked the princes for their commitment to bringing the rally to Saudi Arabia, adding: “Crossing the best deserts of the world has always been in the DNA of the Dakar, to discover and share.”

Meanwhile, the drivers involved in the rally have been in Saudi Arabia soaking up local culture and experiencing some of the desert landscapes they will drive through in January.