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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09JEDDAH28
2009-01-23 15:23:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Jeddah
Cable title:  

GOVERNOR OF MECCA ON PROMOTION OF NON-RELIGIOUS

Tags:   KDEM  KPAO  PGOV  PREL  SA 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO3744
RR RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHJI #0028 0231523
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231523Z JAN 09
FM AMCONSUL JEDDAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1122
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 8209
						C O N F I D E N T I A L JEDDAH 000028 

SIPDIS

RIYADH PLEASE PASS TO DHAHRAN; DEPT FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PPD,
ECA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2014
TAGS: KDEM KPAO PGOV PREL SA
SUBJECT: GOVERNOR OF MECCA ON PROMOTION OF NON-RELIGIOUS
TOURISM, REDEVELOPMENT OF JEDDAH SLUMS, AND TAIF FESTIVAL

REF: 08 JEDDAH 508

Classified By: Martin Quinn for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d



1. (C) SUMMARY: In a January 13 meeting, Governor of the
Mekkah Region Prince Khalid Al Faisal lauded the successful
hajj, discussed an intention to bolster the tourism sector,
and commented on redevelopment plans for unregulated urban
slums in Jeddah. The Governor was receptive to post's
proposal to organize a US education, culture and commerce
festival in Taif during April 2009 similar to the 2008 Abha
festival. End summary.



2. (SBU) SUCCESSFUL HAJJ: According to Prince Khalid Al
Faisal, the Kingdom hosted upwards of 3 million pilgrims
during the 2008 hajj. He emphasized the major logistical
challenge of moving huge numbers of people between points all
on a single day and suggested that the process will
eventually become easier through a new transportation network
being developed in Mekkah, including a rail system. He
expressed surprise at the high number of Americans (est.
12,000) participating in the most recent pilgrimage(reftel).



3. (C) TOURISM: Lauding tourism as a sector for active
development, Prince Khalid claimed that he is trying to
promote internal (Saudi) and foreign travel in the Kingdom,
drawing a distinction between the kind of tourism that
interests him and the "religiously-oriented" travel for hajj
and umra. The Governor cited his personal role as a Saudi
leader who has encouraged non-religious, mostly internal
tourism in the Kingdom.



4. (C) REDEVELOPMENT OF SLUMS: The Governor discussed plans
to redevelop the slums of Jeddah which over the years have
sprung up illegally on unregulated tracts of land, typically
behind and between prominent real estate projects. Prince
Khalid said that many of those living in Jeddah slums are
hajj/umra illegal over-stayers and their descendants. He
spoke of Government help to resettle the slum dwellers so
they can remain and work in the Kingdom, but did not
elaborate on the specifics of urban renewal, future housing
or details of what could be a significant population transfer.



5. (SBU) CULTURE AND COMMERCE FESTIVAL IN TAIF: The CG
raised the possibility of organizing a US education, culture
and commerce festival in Taif in April 2009 and handed Prince
Khalid a proposal to evaluate. The Governor was receptive,
taking ownership of the idea and reminding that he himself
had proposed the highly successful, well attended 2008
festival in Abha. He said he would give us an answer.



6. (C) COMMENT: Despite casually confident statements by SAG
officials about promoting tourism in the Kingdom, the
specific feat of attracting foreign and non-Muslim tourists
to Saudia Arabia appears a distant prospect as long as
obtaining visas is still a major obstacle. Only a few
licensed travel agents in Saudi Arabia cater to small groups
of foreign tourists. Non-religious tourism by non-Saudis is
not likely to have great impact on the local economy or
society. Internal, domestic tourism or tourism by overseas
Muslims after completing hajj/umra may have a better chance
of picking up momentum in coming years. Post will continue
to monitor any movement in plans to redevelop Jeddah slums
and will assess whether rights of current inhabitants are
being considered. End comment.
QUINN