Saudi Arabia's ban on travel to the UAE has disrupted summer holiday plans for citizens and residents, especially during the Eid Al Adha break later this month when many traditionally spend time in Dubai.
Saudi authorities suspended flights to and from the UAE, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Afghanistan from July 4, citing concerns about the spread of Covid-19 variants. People returning to the kingdom from these countries after that date are required to undergo institutional quarantine, the Health Ministry said.
The decision has forced those planning a holiday to seek other destinations, but many are finding it difficult to choose.
Saudi citizen Lana Nasser, 24, said she had planned to visit France this summer but changing travel rules and restrictions made it extremely difficult to decide.
“I don't want to be stuck in a country in such unpredictable and scary times,” Ms Nasser told The National.
“I know my government will fly me back from wherever I am since they have handled the pandemic so well and brought back so many Saudis stuck abroad even during lockdown, but I don't want to take the risk and add that pressure on authorities or even my family.”
Foreign residents living in the kingdom fear that they may not be allowed back in if they leave.
“Our jobs and livelihood are in Saudi Arabia and we can't risk leaving the country,” said Zoya Khan, a Pakistani resident of Jeddah.
“I wanted to take my kids to Dubai because it's close and we didn't want to go to Pakistan because it's unsafe. But right now, there is no place I can think of which is 100 per cent safe.”
According to Dubai Tourism, the emirate received 1.6 million visitors from Saudi Arabia in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted global travel as countries closed borders to contain the spread of the disease.
Saudi Arabia reopened its land, sea and air borders on May 17, allowing citizens to travel outside the kingdom after a 14-month lockdown.
Many Saudi workers had already booked flights to the UAE before the Eid Al Adha holiday, expected to begin around July 20.
“I know I can still go but I cannot afford to come back and quarantine for 14 days. I won't be able to go to work and won't get paid for those days. It's a real dilemma. I haven't travelled since the ban last year and don't know when I will be able to board a plane again,” said Hussein Mohafez, a Saudi marketing officer in Jeddah.