No visa, no veil? Saudi Arabia may ease rules for tourists

Source: Associated Press

By AYA BATRAWY

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia plans to build a “semi-autonomous” visa-free travel destination along its northwestern Red Sea coast where restrictions on women’s dress, gender segregation and other conservative norms could be waived.

The Red Sea project will include diving attractions and a nature reserve, with some areas resembling the luxury hotels, islands and lagoons of the Maldives. The Saudi Commission for Tourism did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for more details on the rules that will govern tourists at the Red Sea resort.

The country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) said Monday it will provide the seed capital to develop the resort area, explaining that the new “semi-autonomous area will be governed by laws on par with international standards.” The fund said the project will attract leading names in hotel to “bring about the next-generation of tourism in a way that will open” Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline to tourists from around the world.

The sovereign wealth fund developing the project is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young prince who in June was named heir to the throne by his father King Salman. The prince is overseeing a dramatic overhaul of the economy to lessen its dependence on oil exports for revenue.

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