Muslim Pilgrims to be Allowed Longer Stay in Saudi for Tourism
Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia will be allowed to stay on in the kingdom for tourism purposes starting from March 2001, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Mecca governor Prince Abdul Majid bin Abdul Aziz, quoted by Arab News, said the pilgrims would be granted one-month visas instead of the current two weeks and be free to visit cities other than Mecca and Medina, home of Islam's holiest sites.
Tourists must use authorized means of transportation such as Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Gulf Arab state's public transport company, taxis and other licensed vehicles, the paper said.
In April, after several years of debate, the conservative and oil-rich state set up a tourism agency to be headed by the defense minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, as part of a drive to diversify revenue sources.
Saudi Arabia has since also started granting visas to non-Muslim tourists.
Unlike foreign residents who need special permits to travel outside Saudi cities, tourists are being given freedom to roam, with entry visas granted with the help of travel agents for organized groups only -- RIYADH (AFP)
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