Saudi Arabia is a fabled land of vast spaces, ancient cities, long coastlines and more, but it may also be hard to sell as a tourism destination now that its rulers are opening it up for vacation visitors.
In a push to diversify its oil-based economy, the country has announced it is offering visas and has begun promoting itself in ads and Twitter campaigns, but the move comes just after a UN human rights criticism and an attack on its oil refineries that highlights its status as a country at war with neighboring Yemen. Other bad publicity in the past year has included its role in the murder of a Washington Post columnist.
On the other hand, the country already has serious lodging and transportation infrastructure, developed to serve the millions of religious Muslims who have traveled to the kingdom for the religious obligation of Hajj, and it has recognized that non-religious visitors will not be required to follow religious requirements, including long concealing robes for women. How far it will bend its ban on alcohol is not yet clear.
Photo: Old Jiddah