Saudi tourist visa rules to be announced in 2 months

In this file photo, a foreign tourist listens to a Saudi guide near a Nabatean tombs complex in the desert archaeological site of Madain Saleh in Al Ula city, northwest of Riyadh. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018

Saudi tourist visa rules to be announced in 2 months

JEDDAH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) will announce details about tourist visas by the end of Q1 of the current fiscal, after the approval by the commission’s board of directors, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The SCTH pointed out that the news about details, requirements, and nationality specifications mentioned in the media are inaccurate and sometimes based on deliberations that have not yet been approved.
Preparations for launching the tourist visa, according to the SCTH, continue to be carried out in full coordination with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs.
The two ministries are working together with the SCTH to lay down the standards that form the foundation on which the issuance of the tourist visa regulations will be based, according to the Tourism Law issued by a royal decree on 9/1/1438 H.
A statement by the SCTH confirmed that the requirements, regulations, and relevant details for tourist visas will be published in the official gazette at the end of Q1 of 2018 for implementation. All details will also be available on the SCTH’s official website.
Earlier in January, the director of the Tourism and Heritage Authority in the Makkah region, Mohammed Al-Omari, told Arab News: “Citizens from all the countries who have access to the Kingdom can obtain tourist visas.”
Al-Omari added: “All Muslims from countries around the world can obtain a post-Umrah tourist visa, so when Umrah is finished they can become a tourist.” This is called the extended Umrah visa for post-Umrah tourism.”
During Saudi Arabia’s trial period of implementing the tourist visa system between 2008 and 2010, more than 32,000 tourists visited the Kingdom. Their visa procedures were facilitated by a number of tour operators licensed by the SCTH.
The Tourism Visa Initiative is meant to revive the previous tourist visa system to enable visitors to discover new destinations in the Kingdom, boost the tourism sector, and develop tourism and heritage services and facilities in the Kingdom.
These updates come after previous reports that indicated that women over the age of 25 do not require a chaperone to issue a tourist visa when visiting the kingdom.

We feel your pain: Saudi Arabia’s support for devastated Beirut

Updated 06 August 2020

We feel your pain: Saudi Arabia’s support for devastated Beirut

  • Saudis, expatriates react to horror of explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday

JEDDAH: There has been a global outpouring of sympathy and support for the people of Lebanon since the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. In Saudi Arabia, the shock and sense of loss has been particularly great, given the historic ties between the countries and the community of Lebanese expats in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to pledge the country’s full support for and solidarity with the “brotherly Lebanese people.”

As horrific videos of the massive explosion in Beirut’s port area continue to be broadcast on TV news channels and shared widely on social media, along with scenes of the massive rescue and recovery operation in the Lebanese capital, many people in Saudi Arabia have been desperately trying to contact friends and family in the “Paris of the Middle East” to check they are safe.

The explosion is the latest devastating catastrophe to hit the people of Lebanon, following a prolonged economic crisis that has provoked sustained street protests against political corruption and mismanagement, and the ongoing challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have a homeland anymore,” said Ali Chaaban, a Lebanese artist who has lived in Jeddah for six years. “My identity is crashing and deteriorating bit by bit. My city is gone and so is my identity.”

He said that it is hard to comprehend the scale of the devastation caused by the blast and added: “Beirut is now declared a ‘disaster city,’ and I can no longer go back any time soon.

“My emotions are mixed and it’s hard to blame someone at this time but my country has been disappearing bit by bit and this is all internal. This is a result of internal conflict and we’re tired of crying out. There’s nothing left.”

Chaaban has a background in anthropology and said his work, which is highly expressive, revolves around the struggle of identity among the masses. The despair he felt after the explosion prompted him to post a simple yet moving image featuring the official logo of the city, with the red smoke from the blast superimposed on the simple brushstrokes of the Arabic text, which is surrounded by black as the city mourns. His work is a lament for his city, where once beautiful streets are now littered with glass and rubble.

“Our identity is based on endurance,” he said. The Lebanese people have suffered years of civil war, aggression from Israel, a corrupt government and more, he said, which raises the question “what next? How much longer can we endure and what’s the point?”

For years, Lebanon has been a popular tourist destination for visitors from the Gulf, many of them from the Kingdom. For many Saudis, who take summer and winter vacations in its beautiful cities and scenic mountains and have bought properties there, it is a home away from home. More than 20,000 visited the country in the first half of 2019 alone.

Saudi artist Taghreed Wazna said she frequently visits Beirut and has never felt more at home than when she is there. For the past few years, she said, she has extended her trips as she always feels safe and loved by friends that she describes as being more like family.

“I was shocked beyond words (about the explosion),” she said. “I stayed in Beirut for so long that I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. Every time I find a picture of a street I recognize or a cafe, I point and think, ‘I was just there. I had coffee here, lunch there.’ My heart breaks for the city.

“I was in Beirut during the last riots and saw the devastation that caused, but never could I have imagined it could get worse.