WESTERN tourists trickle into Saudi Arabia as it tries to open up.

Western tourists, a rarity in Saudi Arabia, visited this weekend under a new visa system, as one of the world's most inaccessible countries tries to open up its society and diversify its economy away from oil.

Thousands of fans flocked to Riyadh's historic Diriyah district for Formula E, a motor sports tournament using electric vehicles and concerts including by David Guetta and Black Eyed Peas.

Most were Saudis still unaccustomed to such entertainment in their own country, when cinemas and public concerts were banned until changes by Crown Prince Mohhamed Bin Salman in the past two years.

Despite an international outcry over the murder of  journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi led war in Yemen , some Westerners also seized the opportunity to visit a country that will largely restrict foreigners to resident workers and their dependents, business visitors and Muslim pilgrims.

An American named Jason is spending a week here with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites in Ushaiger, 200 km [120 miles] northwest of capital.

''The race sounds interesting but to be honest it was a means to see to see the country. We're happy to be here,'' he said. ''I always wanted to come for many, many years. I'm so happy to be here and that they're letting us be here.''

Aaron, a 40-year old software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. He and a few dozen other adventure travelers seeking to visit every country in the world checked the desert kingdom off their list this weekend.

''Saudi Arabia's has always been an exotic place......and I didn't think I'd ever be able to come here,'' he said as circus performers entertained guests in between races.

Some  1,000 foreigners from 80 countries received the new  ''sharek'' , which is linked to specific entertainment event, the authorities said.

That is a fraction of what they eventually hope to attract. [Agencies].

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on the tourist status of the world, continues.


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