National & International

Saudi Arabia to allow unmarried foreign couples to share a hotel room

Saudi Arabia has relaxed its rules restricting the hire of hotel rooms by unmarried couples.

New guidelines issued today by the deeply conservative pool state’s Commission for Tourism and National Heritage now permit women to book a hotel room without a male guardian being present.

Also, starting today, foreign couples can share a room without providing evidence that they’re married.

“All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels,” the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said in a statement.

“This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”

It’s the latest in a number of reforms introduced by crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

He’s also recently allowed cinemas to open again – there were none in Saudi between 1983 and 2018.

Even now they’re only to be found in the bigger cities.

Saudi’s ban on women drivers – the only law of its kind in the world – has also been scrapped.

The country has also launched its first tourist visa scheme for international travellers, designed to boost visitor numbers and move the country away from its reliance on oil exports.

These new one-year visas represent the first time that the ultra conservative régime will allow foreigners to travel there solely for the purpose of tourism.

Previously visitors were only allowed to enter for business reasons, or as part of a pilgrimage to the deeply Muslim country’s holy sites.

The Commission for Tourism and National Heritage is reportedly aiming for 100 million foreign visitors a year by 2030.

Female tourists will also be pleased to hear that the previously very restrictive rules on dress have been softened.

While women’s shoulders and knees still need to be covered in public, it’s no longer compulsory to wear the all-covering abaya robe. Alcohol remains completely banned.

While Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salma has been praised as a reformer, he is still dogged by criticism of a brutal conflict in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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