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Saudi Arabia relaxes Abaya rule; new visa schemes to be announced for 49 countries

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has come forward to boost the Kingdom’s tourism sector where on Friday it will announce new visa schemes for 49 countries across the globe.

Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, Bloomberg News quoted tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb as saying. Visas will be available online for about US$80, with no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past.

Khateeb said the kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe including public beaches that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

However, access to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina is restricted.

The details of the new visa schemes will be announced later today. Presently, citizens of the countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE can travel freely to the country.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” Khateeb said in a statement.

The move is part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans to develop new industries to wean the world’s top oil exporter off crude and open up society including by introducing previously banned entertainment.

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