As Saudi Arabia increasingly opens up to tourists, a travel group in the country started offering this week a “first-ever Christian tour of rare sites,” promising participants a close-up look at a controversial location believed to be the real Mount Sinai — the mountain where, according to the Bible, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, reports Fox News.
Saudi Arabia play host to the holiest site in all of Islam and has been closed to tourism for several decades. With a dismal record on human rights, Saudi Arabia with its strict version of Islam is easily regarded as one of the most brutal regimes in the world. However, surprisingly, the regime has decided to grant tourist visas on the heels of the second delegation of evangelical leaders from America, hosted by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year and earlier this year.
“The atmosphere in Saudi Arabia is changing,” said Rhonda Sand, owner of U.S.-based travel company Living Passages. “They are hard at work developing the country for Western tourism.”
Fox News reports that Living Passages is taking a group of 25 people this week through “Jethro’s Caves in the land of Midian,” believed to be ancient Midian. The tour will be led by Joel Richardson, the author of “Mount Sinai in Arabia: The True Location Revealed.”
Excited Richardson is optimistic that tourists will be flocking to see the historical mountain and other sites covered in a short documentary, “Finding the Mountain of Moses: The Real Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia,” by Ryan Mauro, who is equally billed to lead a tour in February.
The group also has plans to visit the Jebel al-Lawz mountain in the ancient land of Midian. Early Jewish, Christian and Bedouin traditions have long held that this site is the real Mount Sinai. The controversial theory contests the traditional location in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. On the north-west side of the mountain is the Split Rock of Horeb — a massive stone several stories tall, split down the middle, with evidence of water erosion at its base.
A handful of tourists are gearing to visit the town that has an ancient well, believed to be where Moses met his wife Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, after fleeing Egypt. Tourists will also explore the ruins of Dedan, Wadi Tayyib – along the Red Sea coast – and Tayma, where Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar may have occasionally stayed.
Beyond the historic sites, the kingdom is hoping to increase international tourism with new museums and first-class hotels — and even a smart city in the northwest called Neom, set to be fully functional by 2025. Many view the Saudi regime’s evolution under Mohammed bin Salman as a strong sign that Saudi Arabia is consciously towards liberalization.