The ‘Heart of Islam’ beckons tourists from all over the world

Today’s Plan Tomorrow’s Promise


Hassan Cheruppa

THE Saudi ‘Vision 2030’ is based on three pillars, of which the first one is the Kingdom’s status as the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. While unveiling the Vision, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, emphasized that the Kingdom will do its utmost to ensure that Muslims from around the world can visit the Holy Sites. “We recognize that Allah the Almighty has bestowed on our land a gift more precious than oil. Our Kingdom is the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, the most sacred sites on earth, and the direction of the Kaaba (Qibla) to which more than a billion Muslims turn at prayer,” he said while asserting “Our vision is a tolerant country with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method.”

Underlining the essence of the Vision 2030, the Deputy Crown Prince said: “Our nation is the core of the Arab and Islamic worlds and represents the heart of Islam. We are confident that, God willing, we will build a brighter future, one based on the bedrock of Islamic principles. We will continue to excel in performing our duties towards pilgrims to the fullest and promote our deep-rooted national identity.”

The principles of Islam will be the driving force for the Kingdom to realize its great Vision. The values of moderation, tolerance, excellence, discipline, equity, and transparency will be the bedrock of its success. In this scenario, religious tourism attains top priority in the Vision 2030 as the Kingdom has the privilege to serve the Two Holy Mosques, the pilgrims and all visitors to the blessed holy sites. In serving Umrah pilgrims, Saudi Arabia has assumed a prominent place in the world and has become synonymous with hospitality and a warm welcome to all Muslims.

In the last decade, the number of Umrah visitors entering the country from abroad has tripled, reaching eight million people. The Vision envisages enriching pilgrims’ spiritual journeys and cultural experiences while in the Kingdom. The Kingdom’s priorities in the Vision with regard to attracting religious tourists include setting up of more world-class museums, preparing new tourist and historical sites and cultural venues, and improving the pilgrimage experience within the Kingdom in its capacity as a treasure trove of Islamic heritage, and historical sites. The Vision aims to increase the Kingdom’s capacity to welcome 30 million Umrah pilgrims in place of the current annual figure of 8 million.

The highlight of religious tourism in the Vision will be augmented by the ambitious initiative of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of SCTH, recently said that the Post Umrah Program is a key part of ‘The Kingdom is destination of Muslims’ initiative. He said the program aims at enabling Umrah performers to see the country’s landmarks, historical sites, tourist attractions and shopping centers. They might also opt to make cultural, medical, educational and shopping tours, visit exhibitions and attend conferences after having completed Umrah, he said. “We want to link a Muslim to his roots — religiously, culturally and emotionally,” he said, adding, that it is never just an economic or financial project. He cited the procedure of automatic conversion of an Umrah visa to a tourist one, which was once subject to discussion with several agencies. Non-Umrah visa holders could also avail themselves of the opportunity to join the Post Umrah Program.


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