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Saudi Arabia Offers Tourist Visas to 49 Countries For The First Time

Saudi Arabia has announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world

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These visas will cost 300 Saudi riyal ($80), with an additional cost of 140 Saudi riyal for travel insurance, reports said. Pixabay

Saudi Arabia has announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world, the media reported on Friday.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) made the announcement at an event in Ad-Diriyah, an ancient city that is now a leading tourist destination.

“The electronic tourist visa will be issued within a record time of seven minutes and the beneficiaries of the visa include tourists from 49 countries,” said Tourism chief Ahmed Al-Khateeb in a statement, according to the Saudi Gazette.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country. Visitors will be surprised… by the treasures we have to share – five Unesco World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty,” he said.

Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

Foreign women, however, will be required to wear “modest clothing,” he added, without elaborating.

Tourists from 38 countries in Europe, 7 in Asia, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will be eligible to apply for the new visas.

These visas will cost 300 Saudi riyal ($80), with an additional cost of 140 Saudi riyal for travel insurance, reports said.

Saudi Arabia, Offers, Visa, Tourist visas
Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country. Pixabay

Tourists will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for a maximum of 90 days during the year during which they can enter the Kingdom multiple times. The validity of one year will be counted from the date of issuance of the visa, the Saudi Gazette reported.

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Applications for the tourist visas will commence on September 28. The visa announcement was teased via a website and on social media by way of a video campaign, hashtagged “Where in the world?” which featured several shots of Saudi landmarks and natural wonders, prompting viewers to guess where they might be.

According to SCTH, the website has garnered over 94 million views since going live. The commission announced on Thursday that it established a 15 billion Saudi riyal fund to support tourism projects across the Kingdom, reports say. (IANS)

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$20M Saudi Cup Attracts 143 Potential Entrants

With the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup scheduled to take place on February 29 2020

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Saudi Arabia is going to organize the world's richest horse-race event. (Representational Image). Pixabay

In August 2019 it was announced that a new race at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh had been created. But what made this particular race stand out amount its competitors was the staggering prize fund on offer. 

With the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup scheduled to take place on February 29 2020, $20 million is up for grabs. This will make it the richest race in the world, overshadowing the Pegasus World Cup Invitational which had a purse of $16m in 2018 and the Dubai World Cup which is worth $12m. 

Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia chairman Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal declared that the Saudi Cup is being designed to be long-lasting as well as lucrative. The prestigious race will also be limited to 14 invited runners. 

Anthony_Joshua Saudi
This is a major coup for the Saudi’s who have been steadily trying to attract big sporting events to their country including boxer Anthony Joshua’s most recent heavy weight win against Andy Ruiz Jr. Wikimedia Commons

For those that do get the golden ticket to run in the Saudi Cup, the benefits keep coming. Not only is race entry free but the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will pay for all shipping of horses as well as travel and accommodation for connections.  

This is a major coup for the Saudi’s who have been steadily trying to attract big sporting events to their country including boxer Anthony Joshua’s most recent heavy weight win against Andy Ruiz Jr. 

Given the money being pumped into the newly created Saudi Cup it will definitely attract a huge world wide audience. Maybe not as many as the 600 million viewers who tune in to watch the Grand National at Aintree every year but over time this new race will find its fans. And with $10 million going to the winner of the race, only the best thoroughbreds in the world will be running. 

Saudi horse race
The prestigious race Saudi Cup will be limited to 14 invited runners. (Representational Image). Pixabay

So with the first ever Saudi Cup taking place in a matter of weeks, the race to get one of the 14 spots has already begun. A total of 143 horses have been put forward representing four continents, 16 countries and more than 60 trainers around the globe including huge industry names such as Saeed bin Suroor, Aidan O’Brien, Willie Mullins and Satish Seemar. The entrants include 32 Group or Grade 1 winners with plenty of American representation from the likes of Maximum Security, Midnight Bisou and McKinzie. 

Held four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in Florida , it is also expected that the top three finishers in that race will also be issued invites even if they are not among the initial entrants. From there, entries will be whittled down to final fields, based on ratings allocated by former BHA senior handicapper, Phil Smith who spent most of his career being famous for handicapping the Grand National in England. 

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So who will race away with the $10M on February 29 2020? That is still unknown but as the entries get reduced over the next few weeks the picture will become a lot clearer. Will the Saudi Cup bring in the worldwide horse racing audience that it so desperately craves? Quite possibly, if only to witness history in the making as one horse wins the biggest race in the world.