Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?

Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?
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Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia. (Photographs by: Tharik Hussain)
Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?
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Angkor Wat is located about six kilometers north of Siem Reap.
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A halal beef dish found in the nearby "Muslim Village."
Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?
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A fish curry perfect for Muslim travelers.
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Muslim families go about their daily lives.
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Nasir Mahmud's Siem Reap Backpackers Halal Restaurant.
Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?
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A mosque ready to take in Muslim travelers who wish to perform prayers.
Updated 14 January 2018

Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?

Angkor Wat’s Muslims: The key to Cambodia’s halal tourism?

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: If you close your eyes and listen carefully at sunset in Siem Reap’s old town, between the rhythmic chants and tinkling bells emanating from the local Buddhist temples, you will hear the faint, melodious sound of the Muslim call to prayer.
The muezzin issues his call from the Masjid Al-Neakma in the heart of Siem Reap’s “Muslim Village.”
The gateway to Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage temple city, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is also home to a sizeable Muslim community.
It is exactly a year since Cambodia first turned to neighboring Thailand and Malaysia for help in developing its own halal industries, not to satisfy the nation’s Muslims, but to take its first steps into the lucrative halal food and travel industry.
Tourism numbers for Cambodia show that between 2015 and 2016, travelers from Muslim majority countries increased by 4.4 percent, a figure that is expected to continue rising.
Like everyone else that comes to Cambodia, all Muslim travelers will visit Angkor Wat, the country’s premier tourist attraction, with its famous “Tomb Raider” set of mammoth trees wrapped around 12th century temples.
Yet very few of them are aware of the local Muslim community in Siem Reap.
“Before I came to Cambodia, I had no idea there were even Cambodian Muslims and I was expecting a tough time trying to find food outlets and prayer facilities suitable for me and my family,” said Harun Rashid, a Muslim tourist from the UK who visited Siem Reap’s famous temple city with his family in September this year.
“But then I spoke to a Muslim friend who had recently visited and he told me about the ‘Muslim Village.’ I was like, ‘really? There’s a Muslim village near Angkor Wat?
“As soon as I heard this, I began looking for accommodation near the place he had described.”
“We have a halal slaughterhouse run by Muslims in the village. This is where we all get our meat for our homes and to use in the restaurants. I don’t serve alcohol in my one because I am a Muslim. This makes life easier for Muslim travelers to Siem Reap, who can also pray at our mosque which is always open for them,” says Nasir Mahmud, owner of the Siem Reap Backpackers Halal Restaurant.
Finding the Muslims of Angkor Wat meant Rashid and his family now had access to halal food and the local mosque, where they could pray with the local Muslims.
“I suddenly didn’t have to ask if the broth in my chicken soup was made with pork stock, or look around to find a place where I could pray. It doesn’t sound like much, but having people who understand your needs makes a huge difference when you are travelling, especially with family,” he said.
The Muslim village of Siem Reap is in Phum Steung May, west of the Siem Reap River and the town’s main tourist market, Psar Chas.
The community is centered around the newly built mosque, next to which is a religious school and the village cemetery.
The Muslim homes here are indistinguishable from their Buddhist neighbors, both communities live side by side.
“Here, Muslims and Buddhists all live together as friends and neighbors. We all get along,” says Mahmud.
The 48-year-old father-of-five, who also drives a local tuk tuk taxi, opened his restaurant two years ago, after seeing a hike in independent Muslim travelers.
“Travellers come from lots of Muslim countries, especially Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, and many of them are backpackers.
“Siem Reap is not cheap for travelers. At my restaurant people get a free drink on arrival and the best-value halal food in town.”
In time, Mahmud hopes to develop his restaurant into a hub for Muslim travelers.
He already offers a personalized tourism service, arranging local accommodation, transport and tour packages to visit all the country’s major sites.
Mahmud’s restaurant sits a few doors from the mosque along the main strip of businesses owned by local Muslims in Phum Steung May.
His community are all ethnic Cham people, whose ancestors once lived in the ancient Champa region along the central and southern coast of modern day Vietnam.
Originally a Hindu people, many Chams began converting to Islam around the 15th century.
When their settlements were extinguished by the Vietnamese polities in the early 19th century, Muslim Chams migrated to different parts of Indochina, including Cambodia.
The Cham Muslims are a tiny minority in a country with a strong Buddhist image and this can often make Muslim travelers worried about access to halal services on the road.
“I remember, before the trip to Cambodia, thinking I’m going to have to survive on fish and vegetarian dishes and, even then, find a way to make sure no animal products are used in the traditional foods here. The thought of doing this with a family in tow felt quite challenging,” Rashid said.
Experts feel more should be done by tourism boards to tap into communities like the one at Phum Steung May and their potential to make Muslim travelers like Rashid feel more comfortable.
“Muslims are everywhere and all that is needed is to create a platform where they stand out. If the tourism boards of non-Muslim countries were to start promoting Muslim restaurants or mosques, they would be making their destination more attractive to the Muslim traveler,” says Irfan Ahmed, CEO of Irhal, one of the world’s leading Muslim travel apps.
So, perhaps Cambodia does not need to turn to its neighbors to realize its halal travel ambitions after all.
With resourceful locals like Mahmud in Phum Steung May, Cambodia might already possess the keys to unlock the Muslim travel market.


For tourists in Saudi Arabia, Yanbu’s Night Market offers centuries of history at no extra cost

The market is a cultural aspect and part of Yanbu’s cultural identity. (SPA)
The market is a cultural aspect and part of Yanbu’s cultural identity. (SPA)
Updated 04 August 2021

For tourists in Saudi Arabia, Yanbu’s Night Market offers centuries of history at no extra cost

The market is a cultural aspect and part of Yanbu’s cultural identity. (SPA)
  • The buildings there are of traditional coastal design and construction, and the area is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike

JEDDAH: Yanbu Night Market, the Saudi city’s oldest marketplace, has been pulling in the crowds, young and old, for generations. After a period of decline it has undergone a restoration and revival in recent years, and is now considered one of the most important historical sites on the Kingdom’s west coast.
Residents believe its origins can be traced back hundreds of years to the days when merchant ships carrying supplies from Africa and East Asia, and passenger ships filled with pilgrims arriving for Hajj and Umrah, would dock there.
It was dubbed the “night market” by sailors and fisherman who would buy provisions there shortly before setting sail in the early hours of the morning. The fishermen would return to sell their fresh catches and so it became known as one of the finest fish markets in the region. Thousands of fishermen have set up stalls there through the years, and the latest generation continues the tradition, selling their wares to residents and restaurants.
Turki Al-Khaldi, who was born in Thuwal, north of Yanbu, fondly remembers accompanying his father on long journeys to and from Yanbu to buy food and supplies for the family home.
“When I was a child, we only had the beaches to play on, or some small parks, and so these trips were special, specifically because I was the eldest child and my father believed that I needed to learn everything from him,” he told Arab News. “They might be two-hour trips now, but they used to take a bit longer, 30 or more years ago, and my father would tell tales of sailors coming from everywhere and the different sizes of ships that would dock.
“I saw everything in the market, though it didn’t look like what my father used to describe from his younger days. But I remember seeing large crates of dates being sold; an assortment of seafood, fresh and dried; textiles; cookware and so much more. The market had everything.

FASTFACT

Said to have been established hundreds of years ago, the market is considered one of the most important historical sites on Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

“Of course, it’s not the same today; it has become a tourist attraction and there’s been so much development in Yanbu that I can hardly recognize it. It’s amazing that I can now bring my own children and show them the different shops — the fish is still excellent too, which is a plus for my family.”
In the past few years a number of successful projects have been launched to revive the market and restore it to something approaching its former glory, after several decades of decline during which the number of traders and visitors gradually fell.
Now, the old shops have reopened and the heritage and unique identity of the market has been reinforced as part of a project to rehabilitate Al-Sour neighborhood, Yanbu’s historical area. The buildings there are of traditional coastal design and construction, and the area is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
This year, market authorities say visitor numbers have been boosted by its participation in the Kingdom’s Our Summer, Your Mood season, which was launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority in June and continues until Sep. 30. It features 500 diverse tourist experiences offered by more than 250 private-sector partners.


Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
Updated 01 August 2021

Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
  • Regional tourism has started picking up and international tourists are expected to return in August, September and October
  • King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a ‘green’ country for traveling

AMMAN/LONDON: The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to show signs of a positive trend after a near collapse due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, tourism officials said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) began opening up to domestic tourism, and then to Gulf and neighboring countries, in order to facilitate border movement, Dr. Abed Al-Razzaq Arabiyat, the managing director of the JTB told Arab News.
“We expect the return of international tourism during August, September and October after overcoming several obstacles,” Arabiyat added.
Jordan stood out for its low COVID-19 rates at the start of the pandemic but then saw an exponential rise in confirmed cases, and by November recorded the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths per capita in the Middle East. Authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, hitting the tourism sector hard.
Jordan has since managed to flatten the epidemiological curve, has moved from a UK “red list” country to an “amber” one, and in February significantly accelerated its inoculation campaign.

 


“Societal immunity is high and our epidemiological situation gives positive indications that a complete breakthrough for tourism in the kingdom is near,” Arabiyat said, adding that Jordan has eased more restrictions compared to many other countries, which will play a major role in attracting tourists.
He said King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a green country, and that it is “clearly moving in that direction.” Marketing campaigns are in place and tourism offices are ready to cooperate, as some countries have already moved the kingdom to their “green” lists. Jordanian hotels and resorts have also begun receiving international bookings from September to November.

The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Minister of Transport Wajih Azayza said that Queen Alia International Airport received 9 million passengers in 2019, and hopes to return to these numbers after the pandemic.
The airport said on July 17 it welcomed over 1.2 million passengers during the first half of the year, with the highest number recorded in June with more than 389,000 passengers. The airport’s total economic contribution exceeded $3.53 billion (about 8.9 percent of GDP).

The government has also implemented subsidization programs and launched a tourism risk fund valued at $28.2 million to support the sector and alleviate damages. In 2019, Jordan received a record 3 million visitors, bringing in $5.78 billion, which fell to $1.41 billion in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for Jordan’s tourism industry, which suffered its worst contraction in decades last year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Last month, the king called for unified efforts to help the tourism and travel sector recover, which accounts for about 20 percent of GDP, and promote tourism to the “Golden Triangle” of Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba.
Arabiyat said that Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, was most affected due to its high dependence on international tourism, but expects to “hear positive news by September, as there is a demand for the ‘Golden Triangle.’”
From July 1, authorities implemented the second phase of Jordan’s strategy to return to normal life, with tourist facilities permitted to reopen at full capacity. The curfew in the areas of the “Golden Triangle” in the south were lifted, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. Phase 3 will begin on Sept. 1, provided that cases remain low and the government reaches its immunization target.

Jordan has greatly eased restrictions compared to many countries, which will play a major role in attracting inbound tourism. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Arabiyat said JTB has also launched the “Breathe” summer marketing campaign to target tourists, particularly families, from Gulf countries.
He said after enduring two exhausting years of the pandemic, “returning to life as we knew it became a dream that everyone was yearning to live once more; yearning to travel and enjoy life, yearning to feel alive again, hence the name of our campaign ‘Breathe’… where people can enjoy life and just breathe.”
Fawzi Al-Hammouri, chairman of Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association, said there had been a remarkable increase in the number of patients arriving for treatment in Jordan in June, specifically from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, after witnessing a decrease during the past year.
Arabiyat said, however, the greatest concern was preserving employment within the tourism sector.

Jordan is taking several steps to get the number of foreign tourists back to the record 3 million visitors in 2019. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Layali Nashashibi, director of communications and public relations at Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, said they did not let go of any staff throughout the pandemic, even though they had to close both hotels in Petra and one in Aqaba, while the hotel in the Dead Sea was taken over by the government and used for quarantining when it started to bring Jordanians home from abroad.
“Aqaba, at the beginning, it was clean from COVID-19, but Aqaba has tourism and the port. So, if both closed, then the economy will suffer, so they decided that Aqaba would remain open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.,” Nashashibi told Arab News.
“I had to interfere with the government to extend some hours of the (hotels and) restaurants, as well as to have more facilities open,” she said, adding that after speaking with the prime minister, they managed to extend opening hours until 10 p.m. across the whole kingdom.

Government efforts to revive the tourism sector appear to be paying off but officials expect two years of recovery. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Now we are depending on international tourism to come back to Jordan … We are optimistic and we have been promised by the government, the Ministry of Tourism, and Jordan Tourism Board that Ryanair and EasyJet will resume flights (to Aqaba) by October,” she added. EasyJet has started taking bookings for Aqaba from November, while cruise ships have also began to trickle in with one from Jeddah expected to arrive in Aqaba at the beginning of August.
Nashashibi said they also hosted familiarization trips for tour operators. Authorities are offering different types of tax reductions and discounts on landing fees, and tourists from Eastern Europe started coming to Aqaba from the end of June, with planes from Russia expected to increase in the coming period.
The city is regulated by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which has turned it into a low-tax, duty-free city, attracting several mega investment projects like Ayla Oasis, Saraya Aqaba, Marsa Zayed and the expansion of the port, all of which were greatly affected.

Officials announced special measures for Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’, which includes Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Hopefully, COVID-19 will disappear and we return like before or better than before,” Nashashibi said, adding that she does not see tourism improving until the third quarter of 2022, and expects a boom in the tourism and economic sectors to start by 2023.
Sally Abu Hijleh, from Montana Travel and Tourism agency, also said it will take about a year for tourism to return, adding that they are working on offers and discounted prices to encourage travel.
For Marwan Eid Abo Al-Adas, owner of souvenir shop Bazaar Al-Wadeeh in Jarash, even if tourists return this summer, all the tourism sectors have suffered such heavy losses that, he believes, they will still struggle.“The compensation will be greater after two or three years (as) there must be continuity in the tourism sector,” he said.
Marwan Soudi, a Jordanian living abroad, who was not able to return home last year, said: “The way they are handling the pandemic here in Jordan, and the way they rolled out vaccines really fast, the authorities are saying that the tourism and just everything being back to normal by 2022-2023, I would say that sounds like a reasonable aim.”

 


Saudi tourist Abdul Aziz Al-Shalawi said due to Jordan having one of the lowest rates of infections, tourists from Saudi Arabia prefer to visit this summer more than any other country, especially Europe, as its “safety is excellent.”
He said Jordan was beautiful and diverse and that Saudis were also attracted to the kingdom for its medical options. “Jordan has potential and very good doctors and is focused on attracting tourists for treatment, whilst also enjoying their time,” he added.
American tourist Tom Langdon said he hoped tourism would open up more from July to help the Bedouins in Petra, and the people that rely on tourism.
“It’s pretty unfortunate. I went to Petra, and I think there was like maybe 20 people there, and one of the vendors showed me a video, and it looked like a rock concert, it looked like you could barely move without touching someone and he said that that’s how it used to be before COVID-19,” Langdon said.
“I think (Jordan) is an untapped source, I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of this isn’t known to more people. Pretty much every place that I’ve been here in Jordan has been absolutely beautiful (and) I’ve been having a pretty good time.”


Hajj 2021: Revealing the history behind famous Islamic names

Dr. Abdullah Al-Malki, translation coordinator at Hadiya Charity Association and former dean of the College of Languages and Translation at Abha’s King Khalid University, speaks to Arab News during an interview. (AN photo)
Dr. Abdullah Al-Malki, translation coordinator at Hadiya Charity Association and former dean of the College of Languages and Translation at Abha’s King Khalid University, speaks to Arab News during an interview. (AN photo)
Updated 22 July 2021

Hajj 2021: Revealing the history behind famous Islamic names

Dr. Abdullah Al-Malki, translation coordinator at Hadiya Charity Association and former dean of the College of Languages and Translation at Abha’s King Khalid University, speaks to Arab News during an interview. (AN photo)
  • New exhibition details history of Mina and Arafat for educating pilgrims and Saudis
  • For the history of “Arafat,” Al-Malki said this place earned its name because Adam and Eve knew each other in Arafat. “In Arabic, the word ‘araf’ means ‘knew’ in English”

MINA: For many, the origin of Islamic names is a mystery. The history behind the names of towns — such as Mina and Arafat — has escaped many Arabs. To fix this, the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites has launched a new exhibition to enrich Muslims’ knowledge about various locations of Islam’s birthplace.  

The “Between Thabeer and Al-Sabeh” exhibition was opened on Tuesday and welcomed hundreds of pilgrims hoping to learn more about the places that have long been associated with their religious rituals.

For its project, the commission has worked closely with the Hadiya Charity Association (Hadiya). Its translation coordinator and former dean of the college of languages and translation at Abha’s King Khalid University, Dr. Abdullah Al-Malki, told Arab News that the name “Mina” came from the Arabic term “Al-Muna,” plural of “Omniah,” which means “wish.”

“When the Angel Gabriel wanted to leave Adam, he asked to make a wish (Omniah). Adam wished for Paradise. The place was then called Mina, plural of Omniah. There are other narratives which have different claimed explanations for the meaning,” Al-Malki said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The name ‘Mina’ came from the Arabic term ‘Al-Muna,’ plural of ‘Omniah,’ which means ‘wish.’ When the Angel Gabriel wanted to leave Adam, he asked to make a wish (Omniah). Adam wished for Paradise. The place was then called Mina.

• The exhibition also presents the story of the Prophet Abraham with the devil, who tried to trick the prophet into disobeying Allah’s order to kill his son Ishmael.

Al-Malki added that visitors can also learn about the 70 prophets who have passed the valley of Mina. “Mina is a valley alongside of which there are two mountains, Thabeer and Al-Sabeh, and it is believed that some 70 prophets have passed through this place, wearing white woolen garments.”

The exhibition also presents the story of the Prophet Abraham with the devil, who tried to trick the prophet into disobeying Allah’s order to kill his son Ishmael. “The heavenly order was just to test Prophet Abraham’s faith.”

Al-Malki said that the exhibition teaches its visitors how the Quranic surah of Al-Mursalat was revealed in a cave in Mina.

For the history of “Arafat,” Al-Malki said this place earned its name because Adam and Eve knew each other in Arafat. “In Arabic, the word ‘araf’ means ‘knew’ in English.”

He added that it is important that pilgrims and ordinary people learn about the history of these places because they are central to Arab civilization.

Al-Malki pointed out that the exhibition, which is being held for the first time, includes 10 sections where visitors can learn more about Al-Masha’er and what services the Saudi kings have offered to contribute to the development of key historical Islamic sites.

“The care and unlimited spending of the leaders of this county — beginning from the late King Abdul Aziz and his sons, to the era of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — have made these places a source of pride for us all through the giant projects that have been implemented here,” he said.

He added that their efforts have also made the mountains and valleys secure and safe places.

“All the historical information about Mina — its water wells, mosques, and mountains — can all be discovered here under one ceiling,” he said, adding: “We are also broadcasting digital materials and pictures with detailed information about the landmarks of the holy sites to enrich the pilgrims’ experience.”

A similar exhibition called “Alsakhrat” was also opened in Arafat to provide pilgrims with historical information about the site. However, the two exhibitions were combined into one in Mina, where the pilgrims are present during the Days of Al-Tashreeq, on which they carry out their “stoning of the Devil” rite.

Pilgrims can also scan an iQR code to visit the exhibition’s multi-language website to read more about the holy places.


Italy to ban mammoth cruise ships from Venice as of Aug. 1

Italy to ban mammoth cruise ships from Venice as of Aug. 1
Updated 14 July 2021

Italy to ban mammoth cruise ships from Venice as of Aug. 1

Italy to ban mammoth cruise ships from Venice as of Aug. 1
  • Culture Minister said the ban was urgently adopted at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday and will take effect Aug. 1
  • Government acted fast “to avoid the concrete risk” the UNESCO lists Venice to “world heritage in danger”

ROME: Declaring Venice’s waterways a “national monument,” Italy is banning mammoth cruise liners from sailing into the lagoon city, which risked being declared an imperiled world heritage site by the United Nations within days.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the ban was urgently adopted at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday and will take effect Aug. 1. It applies to the lagoon basin near St. Mark’s Square and the Giudecca Canal, which is a major marine artery in Venice.
Franceschini said the government decided to act fast “to avoid the concrete risk” that the UN culture agency UNESCO would add Venice to its list of “world heritage in danger” after it meets later this week in Beijing.
The Cabinet decree also “establishes an unbreakable principle, by declaring the urban waterways of St. Mark’s Basin, St. Mark’s Canal and the Giudecca Canal a national monument,” the minister added.
Before the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed international travel, cruise ships discharging thousands of day-trippers overwhelmed Venice and its delicate marine environment. Environmentalists and cultural heritage have battled for decades with business interests, since the cruise industry is a major source of revenue for the city.
UNESCO recommended last month placing Venice on the agency’s list of World Heritage in Danger sites.
The Italian government previously decided to ban the ships but without establishing so soon a date. But on Tuesday, the government “decided to impose a strong acceleration” to implementing the move given the looming UNESCO review, Franceschini said in a statement.
The ban applies to ships weighing more than 25,000 tons or longer than 180 meters (530 feet) or with other characteristics that would make them too polluting or overwhelming for Venice’s environment.
The Cabinet decree also establishes compensation mechanisms for navigation companies and others affected by the ban. Until a more suitable docking area can be established elsewhere in waters outside the heart of Venice, the government has approved creating at least four temporary docking sites near the industrial port of Marghera, located on the northwestern Adriatic Sea.


Foreign yacht owners receiving entry licenses in 30 minutes to cross into Saudi waters

The service was provided to all foreign tourist yacht owners outside Saudi Arabia, shipping agents and tourist agents. (SPA file photo)
The service was provided to all foreign tourist yacht owners outside Saudi Arabia, shipping agents and tourist agents. (SPA file photo)
Updated 12 July 2021

Foreign yacht owners receiving entry licenses in 30 minutes to cross into Saudi waters

The service was provided to all foreign tourist yacht owners outside Saudi Arabia, shipping agents and tourist agents. (SPA file photo)
  • License requests were made through the toll-free number 1980 from inside Saudi Arabia and through 009661980 from abroad

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s military and civil servants are working 24 hours a day at Jeddah’s Red Sea Operations Center to provide tourist yachts with entry licenses in half an hour.
The multi-agency center assists foreign yacht owners, and their local agents, in Arabic and English to receive licenses to cross into Saudi waters in support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to reinforce tourism through facilitating entry to the country for marine activity purposes.
The center is run by the Saudi Border Guards alongside government bodies such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Tourism, the General Directorate of Passports, the Transport General Authority, the Saudi Ports Authority, and the Public Investment Fund.

“Launching this center comes in implementation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s directives to set up a department for marine activities to reinforce tourism and support achieving the Saudi Vision 2030,” center manager Commander Hasan Al-Asmari told Arab News.

Keeping physical distance, military and civil servants work jointly at the center to provide entry licenses to tourist yachts. (AN photo)

“Any request should include the yacht’s registration, its classification, and its marine radio certification. A list of the names of the onboard staff, safety and insurance certificates are also necessary for applying for a license. In 30 minutes, we reply to the request via email with the license approved.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Red Sea Operations Center is run by the Saudi Border Guards alongside government bodies such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Tourism, the General Directorate of Passports, the Transport General Authority, the Saudi Ports Authority, and the Public Investment Fund.

• License requests were made through the toll-free number 1980 from inside the Kingdom and through 009661980 from abroad. They were also sent by email.

• Since the center was launched, almost 30 licenses had been issued for foreign yachts to enter the Kingdom and sail in its waters.

License requests were made through the toll-free number 1980 from inside the Kingdom and through 009661980 from abroad. They were also sent by email at [email protected]

Commander Hasan Ali Al-Asmari speaking to Arab News. (AN photo)

The service was provided to all foreign tourist yacht owners outside the Kingdom, shipping agents and tourist agents, he said.
He said Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif had ordered the establishment of the center.

Cap. Engineer Omar Al-Abidi reviewing a license request. (AN photo)

“In full cooperation and coordination with representatives from different entities, we issue licenses for visiting islands and beaches, as well as permits for practicing various water activities.”
He added that, since the center was launched, almost 30 licenses had been issued for foreign yachts to enter the Kingdom and sail in its waters. The center has also received more than 83 sailing-related requests for these yachts.