Saudi Arabia Tourism at Glance
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Saudi Arabia Tourism at Glance
Although most tourism in Saudi Arabia still largely involves religious pilgrimages, there is growth in the leisure tourism sector. According to the World Bank, approximately 14.3 million people visited Saudi Arabia in 2012, making it the world’s 19th-most-visited country. Potential tourist areas include the Hijaz and Sarawat Mountains, Red Sea diving and a number of ancient ruins.
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 Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities with visa issuing on the basis of certain regulations approved by the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.
Museums in Saudi Arabia
- 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 in Saudi Arabia
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. A majority of the vestiges date from the Nabatean kingdom (1st century AD). The site constitutes the kingdom’s southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital. Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found in situ, while accounts from the Qur’an tell of an earlier settlement of the area by the tribe of Thamud in the 3rd millennium BC.
Religious Tourism in Saudi Arabia
Tourism in Saudi Arabia still largely involves religious pilgrimages. Mecca receives over three million pilgrims a year during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in Hajj, and around two million during the month of Ramadan in Umrah. 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 in Saudi Arabia Tourism
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 GCC countries, i.e., Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar don’t require visas to enter the country. They are also permitted to work and live in Saudi Arabia and vice versa. 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. 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, and attacks on maritime vessels in certain areas.
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.
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