Saudi Arabia, a country in the Middle East, is opening up to tourists. Until now, the country has been mostly closed, and only a few people were allowed to visit.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has very strict rules for public behavior – especially for women – and doesn’t allow many visitors from outside the country. However, the current crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, wants to make Saudi Arabia more like America and other western countries. He hasn’t given up all the rules, but he has relaxed them. He gave women the right to drive and allowed cinemas, which were illegal before he changed the law.
In September 2019, Saudi Arabia started a new visa program that will allow people to enter from 49 countries. Visas are special passes that allow people from other countries to visit.
Saudi Arabian Culture
For 1400 years, Muslim pilgrims from around the world traveled to the holy sites of Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina). They brought things from their homes to trade, including ivory from Africa and carpets from the East.
The social customs in Saudi Arabia are very different than those in the West. Men and women who aren’t related to each other must stay separate, and women must dress very modestly. Women can work outside the home, but only if the job doesn’t mean they will be in contact with men outside their families.
When someone is caught breaking the law, the goal is to shame the person for behaving poorly. When someone does something wrong, it shames their whole family. For example, if a court decides the person should receive a physical punishment, that punishment is usually carried out in a public place where the person’s name and the names of his or her family are yelled out for everyone to hear. This type of punishment is supposed to be a shame so bad it is worse than any physical punishment.