JEDDAH: For the first time in two years, the sights and sounds of Ramadan offer foreign tourists a glimpse of the Kingdom’s rich culture, a fitting prelude to an expected influx of travelers seeking to experience the country’s growing array of attractions. country.
To support the cultural tourism sector, a tourist visa was launched in September 2019 for citizens of over 50 countries. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought all international travel to a halt.
This Ramadan has now become an opportunity to welcome travelers using the tourist visa. Although the holy month sees businesses operating at reduced or modified hours, the Kingdom has organized several events allowing foreign tourists to experience Muslim and Saudi culture.
Arab News recently interviewed Abdullah Asiri, a tour guide in Jeddah’s historic Old Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, who had taken Spanish tourists through the alleyways of Al-Balad.
“Saudi Arabia is very rich in historical and natural attractions and unique adventures. The ease of traveling from one domestic airport to another is impressive, (so) tourists can visit more than one region while they are in the Kingdom,” Asiri said.
Saudi Arabia is very rich in historical and natural attractions and unique adventures. The ease of traveling from one domestic airport to another is impressive, (so) tourists can visit more than one region while in the Kingdom.
Abdullah AsiriTouristic guide
There are several sites across the country open to tourists, including Diriyah in Riyadh and Rijal Alma in Asir. Tourists can also visit the deserts of Neom, the fishing grounds in Jazan, the mountains of Abha and the ancient city of AlUla in Medina.
The concept of cultural tourism relies heavily on the mobility of people. It allows them to connect with people and their stories, eat local food, and experience various types of art, including dance.
Asiri, who is also a flight attendant with Saudi Airlines, said he decided to work as a tour guide because his travels around the world made him realize how passionate some people are about experiencing new cultures. .
He said there had been a large influx of tourists to Al-Balad following the Kingdom lifting its travel ban and making it easier to obtain visas.
“Many tourists I met after (the ban was lifted) told me how excited they were to visit many sites in the Kingdom that we locals would never think of (doing).
Speaking of cultural tourism during the holy month, Asiri said Ramadan nights, Al-Balad attractions and iftar and sahoor festive meals that include a range of traditional Saudi dishes are “worth it” according to tourists. strangers.
“One of the group members expressed how worried she was about visiting the Kingdom during Ramadan, as most of the activities start at night. However, once she saw the incredible nights of Ramadan, the tents and the local food stalls, she changed her mind and was impressed by everything she experienced and explored during the night tour,” he said.
Asiri advises foreign tourists to enjoy the sunset over the Jeddah Corniche and visit museums in the afternoon so that they can enjoy Al-Balad in the evening after 8 p.m.
Another interesting place to visit is AlUla, billed as one of the largest open museums in the world, with a 200,000 year history of human habitation. It has now become a crossroads of culture, art and heritage, in addition to daytime outdoor activities for health and wellness enthusiasts, from April 2 to May 7.
The official AlUla Festivals & Events account @AlUlaMoments tweeted on April 20:
“Whether fasting or relaxing this #RamadanInAlUla, discover the breathtaking #UNESCO site of #Hegra. Venture out on a bike or cruise in a vintage Land Rover; Check out the craft pavilion and explore this heritage site at your own pace.”
Tourists can celebrate the holy month among the ancient landscapes and natural beauties of the city, and enjoy iftar and sahoor at the new restaurants in AlUla.
Earlier this month, the Saudi Council of Ministers agreed to launch chapters of the Tourism Development Council in all regions, which seeks to coordinate the actions of government agencies.
The objective of the tourism council is to achieve the objectives of the national tourism strategy, develop destinations, modernize hospitality facilities and attract investment.