Saudi Arabia to allow unaccompanied women tourists

Saudi Arabia to allow unaccompanied women tourists

"My vehicle would be parked outside and I could not drive", Nawal al-Jabbar, a 50-year-old mother of three, told the Hindustan Times.

"The tourist visa will be a single-entry visa, and valid for 30 days maximum". This visa is added to those now available in the kingdom. "This visa will be added to those now available in the Kingdom and is independent of work, visit, Hajj and Umrah visas", said Omar al-Mubarak, the director general of the commission's licensing department. The commission's Information Technology (IT) department is presently engaged with the making of an electronic system for issuing the tourist visas, coordinating with the officials from the National Information Centre and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Saudi Arabia now grants tourist visas to a limited number of countries, but even those applications involve a range of restrictions, including requirements to travel through an accredited company and stay at designated hotels.

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The SCTH announcement was not unexpected, as Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, head of Saudi Arabia's tourism authority, said in November that "tourist visas will be introduced soon".

In a historic decision late past year, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three-decade ban based on religious reasons.

The conservative kingdom has however in recent months eased some of its most notorious restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban - set to go into effect in June. The first movie theatres are expected to open in March. He made that clear last September by allowing women to attend a Riyadh-based stadium last September to celebrate the country's national day. But Friday's fixture at Riyadh's King Fahd International Stadium is momentous: for the first time in the country's history, women will join men cheering for their favorite team inside the stadium.

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