Saudi Arabia readies for influx of cultural tourists

Tourists enjoy strolling in old Jeddah’s historical Al Balad alleys, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is more lively and vibrant during Ramadan with festivals, food stalls and cultural activities. (Supplied)
Tourists enjoy strolling in old Jeddah’s historical Al Balad alleys, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is more lively and vibrant during Ramadan with festivals, food stalls and cultural activities. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 April 2022

Saudi Arabia readies for influx of cultural tourists

Tourists enjoy strolling in old Jeddah’s historical Al Balad alleys, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is more lively and vibrant during Ramadan with festivals, food stalls and cultural activities. (Supplied)
  • Ramadan’s sights and sounds a prelude to major influx of travelers, says guide
  • Saudi government has set up industry bodies in all regions to coordinate programs

JEDDAH: For the first time in two years, Ramadan’s sights and sounds are providing foreign tourists glimpses of the rich culture of the Kingdom, a fitting prelude to an expected influx of travelers seeking to experience the country’s widening array of attractions.

To support the cultural tourism sector, a tourist visa was launched in September 2019 for citizens of over 50 countries. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 ended all international travel.

This Ramadan has now become an opportunity to welcome travelers using the tourist visa. Although the holy month sees businesses operate at reduced or altered hours, the Kingdom has organized several events for foreign tourists to experience Muslim-Saudi culture.

Arab News recently interviewed Abdullah Asiri, a tour guide in Jeddah’s old historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, who had been taking Spanish tourists through the Al-Balad alleyways.

“Saudi Arabia is very rich in historical and natural attractions and unique adventures. The ease of traveling from one domestic airport to another is impressive, (so) tourists can visit more than one region while they are in the Kingdom,” Asiri said.

Saudi Arabia is very rich in historical and natural attractions and unique adventures. The ease of traveling from one domestic airport to another is impressive, (so) tourists can visit more than one region while they are in the Kingdom.

Abdullah Asiri, Tour guide

There are several sites around the country open to tourists including Diriyah in Riyadh and Rijal Alma in Asir. Sightseers can also visit the deserts of Neom, fishing spots in Jazan, the mountains of Abha, and the ancient city of AlUla in Madinah.

The concept of cultural tourism relies heavily on people moving about. This allows them to make contact with people and their stories, eat local food, and experience various types of art, including dancing.

Asiri, who is also a flight attendant with Saudi Airlines, said he decided to operate as a tour guide because his travels around the world made him realize how passionate some people are to experience new cultures.

HIGHLIGHT

Speaking of cultural tourism during the holy month, Abdullah Asiri explained how Ramadan nights, Al-Balad attractions, and the celebratory iftar and sahoor meals that include an array of traditional Saudi dishes are ‘worth it’ according to foreign tourists.

He said that there has been a significant influx of tourists in Al-Balad in the wake of the Kingdom lifting its travel ban and making it easier to get a visa.

“Many of the tourists I met after (the ban was lifted) told me about how excited they were to visit many of the Kingdom’s sites that we locals would never think of (doing).”

Speaking of cultural tourism during the holy Month, Asiri explained how Ramadan nights, Al-Balad attractions, and the celebratory iftar and sahoor meals that include an array of traditional Saudi dishes are “worth it” according to foreign tourists.

“One of the members in the group expressed how worried she was about visiting the Kingdom during Ramadan since most of the activities begin at night. However, once she saw the amazing Ramadan nights, tents, and local food booths she changed her mind and was impressed by everything she experienced and explored during the night shift tour,” he said.

Asiri advises foreign tourists to experience the sunset at the Jeddah Corniche and visit museums in the afternoon so they can enjoy Al-Balad in the evening after 8 p.m.

Another worthwhile place to visit is AlUla, touted as one of the world’s largest open museums, with a 200,000-year history of human habitation. It has now become a crossroads for culture, art and heritage, in addition to daytime outdoor activities for health and wellness enthusiasts, from April 2 to May 7.

The official account for AlUla festivals and events @AlUlaMoments tweeted on April 20:

“Whether fasting or relaxing this #RamadanInAlUla, experience the breathtaking #UNESCO site of #Hegra. Adventure on bicycles or cruise in a vintage Land Rover; check out the Handcraft Pavilion & explore this heritage site at your own pace.”

Tourists can celebrate the holy month among the city’s ancient landscapes and natural beauties, and enjoy an iftar and sahoor in AlUla’s newest restaurants.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Council of Ministers agreed to launch chapters of the Tourism Development Council in all the regions, which seeks to coordinate the actions of government agencies.

The tourism council’s aim is to fulfil the objectives of the national tourism strategy, develop destinations, upgrade hospitality facilities, and attract investment.

 


Saudi forces and US marines begin joint training exercise in Yanbu

Saudi forces and US marines begin joint training exercise in Yanbu
Updated 17 sec ago

Saudi forces and US marines begin joint training exercise in Yanbu

Saudi forces and US marines begin joint training exercise in Yanbu

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Armed Forces and US Marine Corps on Saturday launched a joint training exercise along the Red Sea coast in the western city of Yanbu, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense said.

The “Outrageous Anger 22” exercise was inaugurated in the presence of Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Dibais, commander of the western sector, and Maj. Gen. Paul Rock, commander of the Marine Corps at the US Central Command, as well as senior officers from the Saudi armed forces and US Army.

An inspection tour included sites where the two forces will conduct the joint operations.

Col. Saud Al-Aqili, commander of the exercise, said that it aims to rehearse implementation of bilateral operational and logistical plans, exchange expertise between the two sides, and develop complementary work with civil authorities.

Col. Matthew Hakula, commander of the US forces, said that the joint maneuvers will raise combat readiness, as well as strengthen compatibility between Saudi and US troops.

The month-long drill includes logistical exercises and operations with live ammunition.


Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom

Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom
Updated 13 August 2022

Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom

Saudi authorities convict African expat of trying to launder nearly $300,000 outside Kingdom
  • The investigation revealed that the accused attempted to transfer the money by hiding it inside date cartons, which were found in his bag

RIYADH: An African expatriate who attempted to money launder more than $250,000 has been sentenced to two years in prison, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

A source at the Public Prosecution said that the Economic Crimes Prosecution’s investigations found that the man had tried to transfer $297,000, in addition to SR5,000 ($1,331), via King Abdulaziz International Airport outside the Kingdom.

The investigation revealed that the accused attempted to transfer the money by hiding it inside date cartons, which were found in his bag.

It revealed that the seized amounts were derived from practices that violated a number of regulations.

A general criminal case was filed against the offender on charges of money laundering by attempting to smuggle cash outside the Kingdom, and a preliminary ruling was issued against him that included his conviction.

The money was seized, and he will be deported from the country after serving his sentence. The Public Prosecution Office also submitted an appeal for a stiffer penalty for the offender.

The Public Prosecution said it would take anyone seeking to harm the financial system and the national economy to court, and demand severe penalties.

The office frequently highlights, through its social media accounts, the need to disclose financial values and cash amounts that exceed SR60,000 if leaving the Kingdom or passing through any of its ports.


Saudi KSrelief chief tours refugee centers in Poland

Saudi KSrelief chief tours refugee centers in Poland
Updated 13 August 2022

Saudi KSrelief chief tours refugee centers in Poland

Saudi KSrelief chief tours refugee centers in Poland

RIYADH: The general-supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, visited a center run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Polish city of Jyszow on Friday, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Al-Rabeeah was accompanied by the Kingdom’s ambassador to Poland, Saad bin Saleh Al-Saleh, and UNHCR representatives on a tour of the facilities, which are closely linked to aid provided as part of Saudi Arabia’s $10 million grant to support refugees from Ukraine, of which $5 million was allocated through KSrelief to the UNHCR.

Al-Rabeeah toured the UNHCR shelter distribution center to see how the aid is delivered to beneficiaries and what plans are in place to respond to refugees’ urgent needs.

Al-Rabeeah said that the housing aid provided by the Kingdom targets nearly 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, and stressed that Saudi Arabia is always keen to support refugees anywhere in the world.

He also commended the high level of professionalism demonstrated by the UNHCR.

Al-Rabeeah also visited a medical transport station in the city of Przemysl, which currently hosts a large number of refugees from Ukraine.

During the visit, the station’s director, Rafał Kijanka, clarified the station’s efforts to provide necessary medical aid to refugees from Ukraine in Poland with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.


No permit for children below 5 years in Grand Mosque of Makkah

No permit for children below 5 years in Grand Mosque of Makkah
Updated 13 August 2022

No permit for children below 5 years in Grand Mosque of Makkah

No permit for children below 5 years in Grand Mosque of Makkah

RIYADH: Children below five years old can enter the Grand Mosque of Makkah without a permit, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Saturday.

“Parents can take their children who are below five years old without the need to get them a permit,” the ministry said in a Twitter post.

However, children over five years old must obtain a permit through the “Eatmarna” app to enter the holy site.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia announced that holders of all types of visas will be able to perform Umrah during their stay in the Kingdom.


Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast

Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast
Updated 13 August 2022

Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast

Arab states express solidarity with Saudi Arabia over suicide bomb blast
  • Abdullah Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when authorities attempted to arrest him in Jeddah, injuring four
  • Arab world praised the Kingdom's effort to maintain security and safeguard lives

DUBAI: Arab nations have expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia on Saturday in the wake of the death of a suicide bomber in Jeddah.

Abdullah Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when authorities attempted to arrest him in Jeddah, injuring a Pakistani resident and three security men.

In a statement, the UAE condemned the blast, reiterating its stance against “all threats to the Kingdom’s security and stability.”

The country’s ministry of foreign affairs commended the efficiency of the Saudi security forces during the operation and measures taken to maintain public safety, conveying wishes for a speedy recovery of those injured in the blast.

Bahrain was another Gulf country that reaffirmed “unwavering solidarity” with Saudi Arabia and commended relentless efforts to preserve national security. It also praised the vigilance of security forces in dealing with the wanted man.

Kuwait reiterated its backing to the Kingdom’s effort against security threats. “Kuwait stands by Saudi Arabia and supports all measures it may take to safeguard its security and the safety of its people,” Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state news agency (KUNA).

The ministry lauded the efficient security operation and the authorities’ targeted efforts to block any bid that poses a threat to the Kingdom’s stability.

In a statement published by the state news agency (PETRA), Jordan conveyed support to the Kingdom “in every step taken to protect its security.”
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Haitham Abu Alfoul praised efforts of Saudi security forces in addressing threats to the Kingdom’s stability and safety.

 

 

Egypt also voiced support to Saudi Arabia’s fight against “all forms of terrorism” and any violation that threatens national security.  

In an official statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry hailed the Kingdom’s proactive measures and capabilities to track down terrorists and safeguard lives.  

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the bombing and praised the Kingdom’s firm action against any threat that undermines its safety and security.

Meanwhile, Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Al-Asoumi stressed on his confidence in the Kingdom’s vigilance to protect its vital facilities, combat terrorism, and ensure the safety of its citizens and expats.

On Friday, the Saudi security state announced the operation of tracking down and arresting Al-Shehri, who was among nine wanted individuals involved in a 2015 terrorist operation that targeted a mosque in Saudi Arabia. He has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years, according to the statement.