Forget the culture clash, tourists are ready to rock the casbah.
After decades of limited access, Saudi Arabia is finally welcoming vacationers to the oil-rich nation.
In a bid to coax visitors to the Middle East country, where women traditionally have been treated as inferior to men, the Saudi tourism board will place no restrictions on unaccompanied females, according to Reuters.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has curtailed some of its more stringent social policies, such as segregating the sexes and mandatory wearing of abayas — body-covering robes — for women. Although abayas won’t be mandatory, modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees will be expected, even at public beaches.
But alcohol consumption still remains off-limits.
“We will have enough tourists to come to Saudi Arabia to enjoy other things,” explained tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb on the booze ban.
The conservative country of 33 million has implemented a new visa policy open to 49 countries, including the U.S., China and Japan, in a bid to entice foreign investors.
Before the new visa policy, foreigners visiting Saudi Arabia were mostly restricted to resident workers and Muslim pilgrims.
“We have a great culture where many, many tourists would love to come and explore this culture and learn more about it and see it and experience it,” boasted Khateeb.
The tourist shift is one part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to develop new industries and introduce entertainment that previously had been banned.
When asked if he was concerned about Western countries having a negative perception of Saudi Arabia, Khateeb said, “I’m very, very sure they will have a better judgment when they come and experience the life here in Saudi Arabia, and I promise them they will leave with great memories.”