Saudi Arabia’s new visa platform goes live

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) on Sunday announced details of its new electronic visa system, Sharek, which allows international motor racing fans to travel to the kingdom for the December 15 Formula E race, the Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix near Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia is very excited to be inviting international tourists into the kingdom for the first time as tickets for the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix go on sale via its new visa platform new Sharek,” GSA said in a statement.

In a first move to open its borders to international visitors, GSA announced last Tuesday the launch of Sharek.

The platform offers a ticket purchase and online visa application process for sporting fans from around the world wanting to experience the biggest festival of racing, live music and entertainment, including thrilling action on the track and global superstars performing on stage over three days at historical Ad Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh.

“This is an exciting milestone for us. When you host international championships, you have international fans who want to attend. And, of course, the best way to see Saudi Arabia is to visit through sports, this is not just the first way, it is the best way,” Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, said.

“I want them to see Saudi Arabia, I want them to see my country. I want them to meet the people and to see who we really are. The best way for people to see the real Saudi Arabia is to come and this is their chance. We are very welcoming and I am sure people will have a different point of view when they come.

The venue for the event, the ancient city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for the Saudi state, is itself a draw for international tourists, being a Unesco heritage site.

Travellers who buy a ticket for the race can obtain a 14-day visa for SR640. That allows for full entrance to the event, free mobility within specific Saudi territories. Applicants simply need to complete their personal details online, upload a photograph and a copy of their passport, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then confirm eligibility within seconds.

After payment, the visa will be emailed to the international traveller and this can be printed off and used to enter Saudi Arabia. Makkah and Madinah remain off-limits to non-Muslim travellers.

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