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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Saudi Arabia to enforce 'decency' amid tourism push

AFP , Saturday 28 Sep 2019
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Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it would impose fines for violations of "public decency", including immodest clothing and public displays of affection, a day after the austere kingdom opened up to foreign tourists.

The interior ministry said it had identified 19 such "offences" but did not specify the penalties, as the ultra-conservative Islamic country begins issuing tourist visas for the first time as part of a push to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

"The new regulations require men and women to dress modestly and to refrain from public displays of affection. Women are free to choose modest clothing," a statement said.

"The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behaviour so that they comply with it."

Saudi Arabia on Friday said citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

Men and women must avoid "tight fitting clothing" or clothes with "profane language or images", read an instruction on an English language website launched by the tourism authority.

"Women should cover shoulders and knees in public," it added.

But tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said foreign women were not obligated to wear the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

The relaxed social norms in a kingdom have been welcomed by many Saudis, two-thirds of whom are under 30.

*This story had been edited by Ahram Online 

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