In a first, Saudi Arabia has allowed men and women to share hotel rooms and stay together, without proving that they are related. The development comes after a new tourist visa regime was launched the conservative Muslim kingdom to attract holidaymakers. Women, including Saudis, are also permitted to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.
The report was confirmed by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz on Friday, which stated, “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required for foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”
The development will now allow unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign visitors to stay together in the Gulf state.
Earlier last week, the country allowed foreign tourists from 49 countries, in an attempt to diversify its economy away from oil exports. Alcohol, however, still remains banned in Saudi Arabia.
Visas were previously restricted to expatriates and business people working in the country, and for Muslims travelling to the kingdom for the Haj, the five-day pilgrimage Muslims from around the world make to follow the Prophet Muhammad’s footsteps and for Umrah, a smaller religious trip.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative countries in the world, adhering to a strict interpretation of Islam and is considered as particularly harsh to women who are seen as breaking religious rules.
On religion front, Saudi authorities accept the private practice of religions other than Islam and you can bring a religious text into the country as long as it is for your personal use. Importing larger quantities than this can carry severe penalties.
Men and women in Saudi Arabia are required to refrain from public displays of affection and avoid using profane language or gestures.
Taking pictures or recording videos without permission is not permitted in the country. Visitors to Saudi Arabia should familiarise themselves with public decency laws.
As of June 2018 women are legally able to obtain a licence to drive a car, motorbikes and scooters.
Homosexual or extra-marital sexual relations, including adultery, are illegal in Saudi Arabia and can be subject to severe penalties. It’s also illegal to be transgender.