Saudi Arabia can be a very interesting country to visit, and it has recently made efforts to encourage more tourism similar to the other Gulf countries such as the UEA and Qatar. Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy country, with a GDP of $700 billion in 2020. This means that the majority of the country is well developed, and there are plenty of hotels and amenities available. It’s also the largest country in the Middle East, and although there are a lot of deserts, there are also plenty of cities and sites to explore as a tourist.
However, before planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, you should know that it’s a religiously conservative country and compared to many western countries, there are fewer freedoms and rights for women. While attitudes towards tourists are more relaxed than those for residents, it’s still important to take care and understand the customs. Here, societal conventions and behaviours are conservative and rooted in Islamic law. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with Saudi customs and suitable etiquette before embarking on your journey.
The History of Islamic Law and Women in Saudi Arabia
While Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country, this is a relatively new development in the country’s history. The country was unified in 1932, as the two kingdoms of Nejd and Hejaz were combined. Since then, the Kingdom has modernised and with oil as its main export, its GDP has grown at a rapid pace.
Until religious hardliners came to power in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia had a more liberal and open country. One of the topics on their agenda was to restrict women in the name of Islam. In contrast to how free women were some decades ago, Saudi Arabia now has a long list of limitations on women.
There are, of course, also strict laws that apply to men and women, including those against gambling and the consumption of alcohol. Sports betting is unlawful, just as it is with all casino gambling in Saudi Arabia. There are, however, sites where Saudi Arabians can gamble and place bets online that have been put together by experts to ensure that they can gamble safely. The casinos on this list are licensed, and players can browse information and guidelines in Arabic. They also provide customer assistance in Arabic. To put it another way, you’ll have to be cautious about the activities you engage in while inside the country and read about it first.
Women are not only required to dress conservatively in public, wearing hijabs or niqabs but they are also restricted in their travel options. Women in Saudi Arabia needed the consent of a male guardian to travel, and it was unlawful for them to drive until recently. Women and men also cannot sit together in cafes or restaurants unless they are related, according to segregation laws.
Is Saudi Arabia Safe for Women?
The US Department of State currently advises all intending visitors to Saudi Arabia to carefully evaluate the hazards involved. Since 2001, the continuous presence of terrorist groups, some of which are linked to al Qaeda, has posed a security danger to all Westerners. Furthermore, the country is at war with Yemen, and civilian facilities are under threat from missile and drone attacks.
Despite this, the country is considered safe to visit, and while it may not be the safest travel destination, women are safe to visit and travel the country provided they take precautions. Foreign women, on average, have greater freedom than their Saudi counterparts. Because the Kingdom wishes to attract a wider range of foreign tourists. Female travellers, for example, are no longer required to wear abayas.
Things to Be Aware of in Saudi Arabia as a Woman
Local rules compel women to wear modestly in public, covering their shoulders and knees and avoiding apparel with profane language or imagery. Female travellers are not required to wear the traditional robe or Abaya.
Both men and women are expected to avoid public displays of affection and vulgar words and gestures. It is not permissible to take photographs or record videos without permission.
Serious penalties are also applied to anyone in possession of drugs or alcohol, with the death penalty being a possibility in some cases. However, provided you follow the laws and behave reasonably, you should be perfectly fine.