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Arabian nights

RUMOURS ABOUND THAT Saudi Arabia will soon start issuing tourist visas. ‘For a long time, this has been one of the hardest places on the planet for tourists to visit,’ says Helen Elfer, Lonely Planet’s Destination Editor for the Middle East. ‘If it does open up, there is a world of sights and experiences to be explored there, from Mada’in Saleh, an ancient Nabatean site known as “the other Petra” [pictured] to diving over pristine Red Sea coral reefs. Perhaps most intriguingly, it would mean the chance to engage with people, customs and traditions from a largely closed-off culture.’ Tour operator Wild Frontiers plans to send groups to the country from 2017 (

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