Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world

Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Saudi Tourism Authority)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Saudi Tourism Authority)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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Tourists can experience true Saudi hospitality at the Rijal Almaa village where traditions date back hundreds of years. (Visit Saudi)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Saudi Tourism Authority)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Saudi Heritage Commission)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Saudi Heritage Commission)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Visit Saudi)
Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
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The visitor e-visa grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. (Visit Saudi)
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Updated 23 August 2023
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Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world

Saudi Arabia further opens culture, heritage to the world
  • Kingdom adds 8 new countries to e-visa pool
  • Visitor targets are ‘ambitious,’ says tourism minister

DUBAI: Not even a decade ago, a trip to experience Saudi Arabia’s historic sites and culture would have been unthinkable for most. Over the past few years, thanks largely to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, the Kingdom has opened to tourists, amid a multitude of other transformations on the business and social fronts.

There has been a dramatic shift in tourism numbers for the Gulf nation since it launched its e-visa program in 2019. Since then, Saudi Arabia registered 94 million visits in 2022, a 93 percent increase compared to 2021, resulting in a tourism spend of SR185 billion ($49 billion).

This rapid tourism growth is due to expanding visa initiatives, which now include 57 nations and two special administrative regions, compared to the initial 49 countries at the program’s launch.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Kingdom’s expanding visa initiatives now include 57 nations and two special administrative regions.
  • New countries in the e-visa pool include Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, South Africa, and Uzbekistan.
  • Travel and tourism counts for 4.5 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP, marking an increase from three percent in 2019.

Abdullah Al-Dakhil, a spokesperson at the Saudi Tourism Authority, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia’s ongoing visa announcements since 2019 have been a significant step toward the Kingdom becoming a must-visit tourism destination, with millions of travelers from right across the world taking advantage of the changes.”

The Kingdom is now taking another step and reimagining its tourism experience. At the beginning of this month, it granted visitor e-visas to travelers from eight countries for leisure, business and religious trips (Umrah only): Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, South Africa, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, said: “By expanding the e-visas to these countries, Saudi Arabia takes another step forward in opening its doors to the world and offering an easier and simplified travel experience for all visitors to the Kingdom.”

The visitor e-visa is valid for an entire year, grants multiple entries and permits a stay of up to 90 days. Additionally, Visit Saudi offers an online trip planner for visitors to create custom itineraries with ease.

Nusuk is the Kingdom’s first-ever official integrated digital platform, enabling pilgrims to plan their journeys. It is Umrah pilgrims’ one-stop platform for securing visas, booking packages, and obtaining necessary guidance and visitation permits for travel to Makkah and Madinah. Since the digital platform’s launch in September 2022, 1.1 million applications have been received, and over 800,000 visas issued.

“Thanks to the e-visa program, the Stopover Visa and the Nusuk platform which now seamlessly issues Umrah e-visas, it has never been easier or more in-demand to visit Saudi Arabia … (The Kingdom) expects even bigger numbers this year with great Q1 and Q2 results,” Al-Dakhil added.

Most recently, Saudi Arabia announced it would launch the Nusuk platform in Bangladesh for that nation’s pilgrims.

Muslim visitors with all types of visas will now be eligible to perform Umrah. Whether visiting Saudi Arabia as a tourist or for business, Muslim visitors will be able to add Umrah as an itinerary stop.

The new e-visas also have economic benefits for the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is setting the pace globally, aiming to provide some of the biggest opportunities in tourism today.

According to the Saudi Tourism Authority, the Kingdom is the biggest investor in the industry worldwide. With sector investment of $800 billion by 2030 and another $550 billion dollars earmarked for the development of tourist destinations, the Kingdom is creating value for its partners. For example, over the next five years, the number of hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia will nearly double to about 200,000.

And the travelers keep flocking to the Kingdom. According to the ministry, Saudi Arabia is well on track to achieve its goal of 100 million visits by 2030 — with new targets currently being set. And the plan is for the tourism sector to contribute 10 percent of GDP by 2030. Currently travel and tourism counts for 4.5 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP, marking an increase from 3 percent in 2019.

Moreover, the new e-visa program is also working, according to the authority, to empower Saudis economically. Notable investments in infrastructure and development projects are being made across the country to create employment and empowerment opportunities for citizens.

Al-Khateeb told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia is going through a major transformation, and we welcome and invite people to come and experience Saudi Arabia and see the changes that happened in the last few years.”

“Our target is indeed ambitious,” he continued, adding, “we have achieved a lot so far and the best thing to do is to come and experience life here and see the changes on the ground.”


Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha
Updated 55 min 25 sec ago
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Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha
  • Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm owner Ahmed Al-Barouqi rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells
  • The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area

AL-BAHA: A farmer in Al-Mandaq Governorate has turned his passion and hobby into a thriving tourism project.

Ahmed Al-Barouqi, who owns Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm in the governorate, northwest of Al-Baha, takes advantage of the mild climate and natural beauty of the area, including its agricultural terraces, historic village and picturesque valley, to attract visitors.  

With a mild climate and natural beauty of the area, the farm has become a tourist attraction.  (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency interviewed Al-Barouqi, the young farmer in Al-Tarf, Wadi Rusba, behind Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm.

“My relationship with agriculture spans over 27 years, having grown up in a family surrounded by farms,” he said. “This inspired me to invest in the farm in Al-Tarf village, where we have fond childhood memories of planting grape, almond and fruit trees.

“I was determined to create a rural tourism investment model that harmonizes with the region’s natural features and moderate climate, providing a unique experience for visitors to the province,” he added.

Al-Barouqi said he rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells. He created paved paths and seating areas and opened scenic views of the adjacent valley by adding seating areas.

Popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea are offered to visitors in the farm. (SPA)

He also offers popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea.

He highlighted the success of implementing drip irrigation for strawberry crops, which aligns with the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This initiative has added value to the farm and its visitors, creating new agricultural investment opportunities and promoting a diverse agricultural culture. By diversifying products and experimenting with various crops, the farm aims to achieve self-sufficiency in producing crops for local markets.

Fruits are abundant in the farm. (SPA)

Al-Barouqi said: “Farming has created over 20 seasonal job opportunities for young men and women in the region and established sites for productive families.

“We have a comprehensive development plan and vision for the farm that includes agricultural, recreational and investment aspects. Investing in this sector results in pioneering commercial projects that provide a distinctive tourism experience in the Al-Baha region,” he added.

The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area.


Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
Updated 25 May 2024
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Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
  • Party on an official visit to the republic

DAKAR: A delegation from the Saudi-Senegalese Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shoura Council, led by  Dr. Ayman bin Saleh Fadel, council member and committee chairman, met Senegal’s Minister of African Integration and Foreign Affairs Yassine Fall at the ministry’s headquarters in Dakar.

The delegation is currently conducting an official visit to the Republic of Senegal and the two parties discussed bilateral relations as well as possible cooperation in multiple sectors to enhance coordination. Other topics were also discussed.


A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 
Updated 25 May 2024
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A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 
  • The museum is home to many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools
  • It also includes the owner's artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors 

ASIR: Perched atop the Souda Mountains in the Abha region of Asir province in southern Saudi Arabia is a modest museum created by an Asiri woman called Halima Asiri. 

Passionate about old Saudi heritage, Asiri established the Tahlel Museum in a small traditional house. 

Halima Asiri is a woman who is passionate about old Saudi heritage, which led her to establish the Tahlel Museum. The museum is a small house in the shape of old Saudi buildings. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

It includes many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools. It also includes her artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors. 

“This is my small museum, where I exhibit the work of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a kind of natural color painting that have been certified by UNESCO as part of the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Each pattern has a name and a symbolic meaning. Men do not practice this art, thus women are the only ones who specialize in it,” Asiri told Arab News. 

Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. These colors are extracted from coal, rice, turmeric, pomegranate peel, stones and other sources. 

“I take 24 colors from nature, such as clover, coal, stone, and leaves, grind them into a paste, and use that paste to paint canvases and walls,” she said.

Ancient coffee and teapots, clay cups, copper household utensils, and other artifacts are on display in one of the rooms. 

Tahlel Museum owner Halima Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. (AN photos by Rahaf Jambi)

“The handcrafted items found here date back to 400-500 years, and the people of the Asir region used them all,” Asiri said. 

She incorporated a model of the old town in which she formerly resided in the museum. The town has since fallen into ruin. 

“The old roads were difficult, and women had to carry wood, walk, and climb mountains to get to their homes. The model that I constructed depicts the hardship and strength of women in Asir,” she explained. 

The museum also features the traditional attire worn by women in the Asir region. 

“I have items of clothing that Asir women wear on their wedding night. I also have regular clothes, like straw hats,” she added. 

Asiri started collecting antiques that date back centuries when she was young, and she made sure to collect antiques and present them in her museum in a unique way. 

There are numerous kinds of swords, weapons, and clothing that the locals used in battle displayed on the walls. 

The location also features a workshop where guests can learn how to paint Al-Qatt Al-Asiri works, in addition to selling her artwork on commission. 

“I teach Al-Qatt Al-Asiri art as a trainer. I frequently get big groups of people, and not so long ago, I trained a group of foreign women,” she said. 

The museum is also linked to a cafe where she serves traditional Asiri dishes like areekah using natural honey. 

“Many foreigners have visited, including ambassadors and ministers,” she said. 

Asiri greets visitors when entering the museum with a famous Asiri phrase, “a thousand welcomes.”

Owing to its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the Asir region is highly sought-after by those seeking to explore unspoiled landscapes, wander through charming villages, and explore historic castles. 
 


Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy

Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy
Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy

Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy
  • President Ebrahim Raisi and others were killed in helicopter crash 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a telephone call on Friday to Mohammad Mokhber, the acting Iranian president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The crown prince sent his condolences following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in a helicopter crash earlier this week.

Mokhber expressed his thanks to the crown prince for his kind sentiments.

The two sides also spoke of achievements in bilateral relations between the countries, stressing the importance of continuing to enhance cooperation.

The Iranian president, foreign minister and six others were killed on Sunday when the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed in dense fog in mountainous terrain near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan.


Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza

Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza
Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza

Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza
  • Kingdom said it appreciated the ICJ decision, which it called a positive step towards the moral and legal right of the Palestinian people

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed the Kingdom’s welcoming of a decision made Friday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately stop military attacks or any other offensive actions in Rafah, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom said it appreciated the ICJ decision, which it called a positive step towards the moral and legal right of the Palestinian people.

It stressed the importance that international resolutions should involve all Palestinian areas in accordance with the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.

Saudi Arabia also reiterated its call to the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to stop all forms of aggression against the Palestinian people.