Saudi Arabia opens its doors and welcomes international tourists with open arms! What a historic moment this is.
The conservative country has been an undesirable destination for global tourists. Till now, visiting this country was possible only with travel visas which were granted only to ex-pat workers, for religious pilgrimages to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina or short-term business trips.
Winds of Change
The Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia, has announced the launch of a new visa regime, allowing travelers from 49 countries to visit one of the world’s most closed-off countries. The Minister of Interior, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, implemented the visa rules along with new regulations on public decency.
If you’ve already planned a trip to Saudi Arabia, then take a moment and think again! Here’s everything you need to know before you actually visit Saudi Arabia!
The new visa rules – a tactic to boost tourism
The Saudi ministry has identified 19 punishable offenses that apply even to visiting tourists. The new set of code of conduct is to ensure and encourage the tourists to familiarize them with the nation’s law on public decency. The law is intended to make the travelers aware of these laws relating to public behavior so that they comply with them to avoid getting penalized. The fine will range between 50 and 6,000 Riyals (From 950.27 INR to 1,14,032.67 INR)
If you don’t want to get into trouble in Saudi Arabia, pen down these things you MUST NOT do while visiting the place.
1. Immodest clothing – Men and women both can’t wear ‘tight-fitting’ clothing or short-length outfits, nor can they opt for clothes with ‘profane languages or images’ on them. Though female tourists are not obligated to wear body-shrouding abaya robe (it is mandatory only for Saudi ladies), they are supposed to cover their shoulders, hair, and knees in public space.
2. Public Display of Affection – Tourists have to refrain from kissing or any physical closeness in public.
3. Polluting the Environment– One cannot litter, spit, jump queues, use abusive language, and compromise the beauty of an area. Nor can they take photographs and videos of people without their permission.
4. Partying Hard: Playing loud music is strictly prohibited, especially at prayer time.
How will the law be enforced?
The duty of monitoring and regulating the fines lies in the hands of the Saudi Arabian police force. Earlier, the country’s powerful anti-vice squads, Mutawa, used to ensure that people prayed five times a day, women covered their heads and enforced bans on music, alcohol, and women driving cars. But, their authority to make arrests was snatched away in 2016, as a result of the fears of ‘moral policing.’
The Kingdom is moving towards a progressive path
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ascended to power in 2017, some radical changes have been witnessed in the country. The young prince seems to have spearheaded the social reforms to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, and the influence of the mutawa (anti-vice squad).
The Precise Nature of India- Saudi Arabia Relationship Presently
There has been a very slow and steady process in the bilateral relationship of both the countries India and Saudi Arabia, since it is the year 2006 when the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud visited the country India. The two sides also signed the landmark Delhi Declaration during the time of that visit, which was like setting the framework for upgrading the ties so as to reach the levels of “strategic partnership” in 2010, when the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom is the fourth largest trading partner to the country India and is also the fourth largest market for the exports of Saudi Arabia. Bilateral trade is in the region of the 28 billion dollars, a major part of its crude oils gets exported to India, which is importing around 19% of its complete oil requirements from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian oil major Armaco and the UAE company which is in the partnership of the company had decided to invest the half amount in a planned 44 billion dollars in a refinery-cum-petrochemical project in Maharashtra, which will be termed as World’s biggest refinery. Per contra, the project is on hold as for now Shiv Sena is in objection as its proposed location is Ratnagiri. The two countries also have defense, security and counter-terror cooperation.
The Gulf nation introduced some relaxed social norms like women not need to wear a headcover as long as they dress modestly. In a surprising move, the ban on women driving was also lifted, and public entertainment and broadcasting of movies in theaters flourished!
Now with the new visa system, the austere kingdom has opened the door for the people around the world. Let’s hope that this change will pave the way for societal growth and tourism prosperity.