News World Saudi Arabia implements public decency code as it opens to tourists

Saudi Arabia implements public decency code as it opens to tourists

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it would issue fines for 19 offences related to public decency, such as immodest dress and public displays of affection, as the Muslim kingdom opens up to foreign tourists.

The Interior Ministry decision accompanies the launch of a visa regime allowing holidaymakers from 49 states to visit one of the world’s most closed-off countries. Till now, most visitors have been Muslim pilgrims and business people.

Violations listed on the new visa website also include littering, spitting, queue jumping, taking photographs and videos of people without permission and playing music at prayer times. Fines range from 50 riyals ($13) to 6,000 riyals ($1,600).

“The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behaviour so that they comply with it,” a government media statement said.

It said Saudi police had the sole responsibility for monitoring offences and imposing fines, a comment that appeared to marginalise the kingdom’s religious anti-vice squads whose authority to pursue suspects or make arrests was curbed in 2016.

The religious force, known as the mutawa, used to ensure people prayed five times a day in line with Muslim teachings and that women covered their heads. They also enforced bans on music, alcohol, gender-mixing and women driving cars.

Alcohol remains illegal, which could deter some tourists. It also remains unclear if unmarried foreign men and women would be permitted to share a hotel room.

But the ban on women driving has been lifted and public entertainment, including once banned cinemas, has flourished. Many restaurants and cafes have removed physical barriers separating genders and no longer stop serving customers at prayer times.

Some women now wear more colourful abayas, the loose fitting robes worn over their clothes that are usually black, or no longer wear the robes at all.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has spearheaded the social opening and reforms to diversify the economy away from oil, said last year that women in Saudi Arabia did not need to wear a headcover or abaya as long as they dressed respectfully.

The changes have been viewed at home and abroad as proof of a progressive trend, although constraints remain and there have been no moves towards opening up a system that has kept the ruling Al Saud family firmly in control of political power.

The authorities have detained women’s rights activists for the past year amid a broader crackdown on dissent. The crown prince’s image abroad has also been tarnished by last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, and a devastating war in Yemen.

The Gulf country, which shares borders with Iraq to the north and Yemen to the south, boasts vast tracts of desert but also verdant mountains, pristine beaches and historical sites including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

Cyprus records 1,400 cases of violence against women this year, so far

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Wednesday, police said a total of 1,400 such cases were reported in...

Car crashes into gate of Merkel’s office

A car with slogans scrawled on its sides crashed into the gate of the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday,...

British royal Meghan speaks about miscarriage in New York Times article

Meghan, Britain's Duchess of Sussex, has revealed in an opinion article published in the New York Times on Wednesday that she had a miscarriage,...

Russia discusses possible Sputnik V vaccine production in Germany

Russia is discussing possible production of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Germany, Interfax news agency reported late on Tuesday. The news agency was quoting Kirill Dmitriev,...

Health experts, President to decide on festive season’s preventive covid measures

President Nicos Anastasiades and the epidemiological advisory group on covid-19 on Wednesday morning began a meeting aiming to clarify the next steps to be...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...