Tourism in Saudi Arabia

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Al-Bahah, Saudi Arabia
Hafar Al-Batin, Saudi Arabia

The mountains, valleys and Red Sea beaches of Saudi Arabia with turquoise water are known for some of the world's finest diving and attract some, but comparatively few, tourists. Some other spots are hard to reach, such as the Nabatean ruins, a four-hour drive from Medina, the nearest city with an airport for visitors to fly into. The kingdom is almost totally dependent on oil, a habit Prince Sultan Bin Salman wants to change by forming the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities in 2000. There is also the famous bridge to Bahrain.

In December 2013, Saudi Arabia announced its intention to begin issuing tourist visas for the first time in its history. Council of Ministers entrusted the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities with visa issuing on the basis of certain regulations approved by the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.1

Museums

  • The National Heritage and History Museum in Riyadh
  • Museum of Buraidah
  • Dammam Historical Museum (Arabic: متحف الدمام الإقليمي )
  • Dammam Public Library
  • Dhahran Exhibition Centre (Arabic: مركز معارض الظهران)
  • Folk Village
  • National Museum

Dammam National Museum is located on the 4th floor of the Dammam Public Library, opposite the Muhammad bin Fahd Stadium on the cross lane from the Dammam-Khobar Highway in Al Toubaishi district. A must for visitors to the region, the museum focuses on the country's history, culture, and inhabitants through displays of relics and remnants of handicrafts.

World Heritage Sites

Diriyah is a town in Saudi Arabia located on the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh. Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi royal family and served as the capital of the first Saudi dynasty from 1744 to 1818. Today, the town is the seat of the Diriyah Governorate, which also includes the villages of Uyayna, Jubayla, and Al-Ammariyyah, among others, and is part of Ar Riyad Province.

Mada'in Saleh is a pre-Islamic archaeological site located in the Al-Ula sector, within the Al Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia.2 A majority of the vestiges date from the Nabatean kingdom (1st century AD).3 The site constitutes the kingdom's southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital.45 Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found in situ,5 while accounts from the Qur’an tell of an earlier settlement of the area by the tribe of Thamud in the 3rd millennium BC.6

Religious tourism

Muslim pilgrims in Mecca

Tourism in Saudi Arabia is largely based around religious pilgrimage. Mecca receives over three million pilgrims a year during the month of Hajj,7 and around two million during the month of Ramadan in Umrah.8 During the rest of the year, Mecca receives around four million for Umrah. The Hajj, or pilgrimage to the city, is one of the five pillars of Islam. However, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

Restrictions and security

All visitors to Saudi Arabia require a sponsor, which is usually arranged months in advance. Visas are only issued for business, relatives of Saudis, transit to a third country, and Muslim pilgrims; general tourism is not allowed (Citizens of Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar don't require visas to enter the country. They can also enter using their national ID cards). Women may not travel alone, and women and children require permission of the male head of household to enter and leave the country.9 Though crime is lower than many cities around the world, the U.S. State Department warns travelers of an elevated risk of attacks on Westerners, 10 and attacks on maritime vessels in certain areas.9

Hajj pilgrims from other countries, including foreign citizens already living in Saudi Arabia, must obtain a permit and make arrangements for transport and accommodation with a government-approved travel agent. Hajj and Umrah permits only allow foreign visitors access to areas near and between Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah, and only for a limited time. Passports are confiscated upon arrival, and visitors are issued ID cards and wristbands.11

See also

References

  1. ^ Tourist visas to be introduced
  2. ^ Abu-Nasr, Donna (2009-08-30). "Digging up the Saudi past: Some would rather not". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  3. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica: Macropædia Volume 13. USA: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1995. p. 818. ISBN 0-85229-605-3. 
  4. ^ "Expansion of the Nabataeans". Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  5. ^ a b "ICOMOS Evaluation of Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih) World Heritage Nomination". World Heritage Center. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  6. ^ "Creation of Al-Hijr". Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  7. ^ "Hajj Requirements: Visas for 1430 Hajj". Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  8. ^ "1430H Umrah Visas". Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  9. ^ a b http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1012.html
  10. ^ http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5813.html
  11. ^ http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/hajj/hajj_5584.html

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