Dubai’s Burj Khalifa lit up with scenes from Saudi Arabia yesterday, at the same time celebrations took place in the kingdom to mark the introduction of Saudi's Arabia new widescale tourism visas.
Tourists from 49 countries can now apply for a Saudi visa after the country announced its new tourism strategy in Riyadh yesterday.
At a launch event held in the Ad Diriyah historic region on the banks of Wadi Hanifa near the capital, hundreds of guests gathered to celebrate the news.
Simultaneously, the world’s tallest tower glowed with several scenes depicting the kingdom’s diverse landscapes, which are now open to tourists. The two countries are long-time friends and allies.
In Saudi Arabia, visitors enjoyed a sensory area depicting the country's 13 distinct regions, climates and cultures. In one section, faux snow fell from the roof, representing the cooler climes of the Tabuk region.
Guests enjoyed a four-course, Saudi-inspired fine-dining meal with ingredients sourced from across the country, before a large-scale performance commenced.
A flying dolphin and Arabian horses
The show combined intricate animations across the walls of the purpose-built ballroom, oftentimes interacting with the performers.
Several actors and dancers weaved their way through the crowd while a remote-controlled flying dolphin, a scuba-diving acrobat and an indoor hot air balloon floated through the air. A Mercedes G-Wagen and a beautifully dressed Arabian horse also weaved their way between tables.
Ahmed AlKhateeb, president and chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, told guests that visitors were now welcome to discover the kingdom’s many treasures.
“Visitors to Saudi Arabia will be surprised and delighted to discover the kingdom’s many treasures – the warmth of our people, our rich heritage, vibrant culture and breathtaking natural beauty,” said AlKhateeb.
Historically, visas to travel to Saudi Arabia have only been issued to those travelling for religious or business purposes. The new tourism rules are part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 to diversify the kingdom away from oil revenue.
“Saudi Arabia’s unique heritage attractions include the Unesco World Heritage site at Ad Diriyah, the Al Ula archaeological site and the Jeddah Historical District," explained the country's tourism chief.
There are also several new attractions for future travellers including a high-tech city dubbed NEOM, a huge Qiddiyah entertainment city near Riyadh and a range of luxury, sustainable destinations on the Red Sea coast.
Applications for tourism visas can be made via the tourism e-portal or on arrival in Saudi Arabia.