Dubai, October 6
Saudi Arabia has lifted some restrictions on women travelling in the ultra conservative Muslim kingdom, its tourism authority said Sunday, with new guidelines allowing women to rent hotel rooms without a male guardian’s presence, and foreign men and women to share a room without proof of marriage.
The easing of stringent regulations governing social interactions comes after Riyadh launched its first tourist visa scheme, as part of efforts to open up the country to foreign visitors and diversify its oil-reliant economy.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage posted the new requirements on Twitter Sunday, confirming a Friday report by the Saudi daily Okaz.
The commission said women will be allowed to rent hotel rooms with proof of identity an ID card for Saudi women, residency card for foreign residents living in the kingdom or passport for tourists.
The same would be required of foreign couples, without the need for them to present a marriage certificate.
The move comes amid deep reforms over the past year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has lifted a ban on movie theaters in the kingdom and the world’s only ban on women driving.
Critics note there are limits to the reforms, and point to last year’s killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the reported torture of several detained women’s rights activists. — AP
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