Expat relocation Egypt Saudi Middle East ..
Mobility Management Middle East

Egypt-bound travelers should register online after COVID declaration forms canceled, EgyptAir says

EgyptAir is calling on travellers visiting Egypt to register through the newly launched website Visit Egypt, which has been launched to replace the mandatory COVID-19-related declaration forms.

The new website has been launched experimentally to reduce waiting time for Egyptian and foreign passengers upon arrival at the Egyptian airports.

Passengers have to register at the website at least two days before starting their trip or otherwise fill the paper form upon arrival.

In a statement circulated by local media on Wednesday, the Egyptian flagship carrier said the launch of the new website is part of the state's efforts to streamline the arrival procedures for passengers.

The step would also ensure smooth movement inside airports and reduce crowds at airport halls, EgyptAir added.

Those who are not able to register at the website will be allowed to enter the country if they provide accredited COVID-19 vaccination certificates or negative coronavirus test results, the statement said.

Vaccination certificates have to show that at least 14 days have passed since the passenger received their second vaccine dose. Negative coronavirus test results must be for PCR or antigen tests taken in the 72 hours before arrival and having a QR code.

Egypt cancelled the COVID-related declaration forms in April after launching the Visit Egypt website.

Amid a major improvement in the coronavirus situation in the country, Egypt also cancelled exceptional COVID-focused disinfection of planes after each flight, with a return to normal sanitation procedures.

Egypt's daily COVID-19 infections have recently dropped to their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, with the country recording a daily average of four coronavirus infections and two deaths over the past week (21-27 May).

Egypt's decision to cancel the mandatory declaration forms and exceptional COVID-19 focus plane disinfection come at a time when the country has been taking measures to support the tourism sector's recovery amid global challenges.

Egypt, which relies on tourism revenues as a vital source of foreign currency, received around 7.6 million tourists in 2021, an official told Al-Watan newspaper in April.

This is up from 3.7 million tourists who visited Egypt in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and down from 13 million in 2019, according to Statista.


Mvenpick Resort Al Marjan Island opens in RAK

Mvenpick Resort Al Marjan Island, a five-star resort featuring 418 suites overlooking a 300-metre private beach, floating water park and an all-year-round kids club, has opened in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), UAE.

The premium destination resort for families, couples and adventurers to the emirate, it offers spacious rooms equipped with sofa beds for extra comfort. Providing the complete island experience, the upscale accommodation also includes stylish beachfront chalets with their own private swimming pools and terraces.

Complete with six exceptional restaurant and bars, dining at Mvenpick Resort Al Marjan showcases a variety of cuisines that caters to all palates. Visitors can indulge in a lively and vibrant international market buffet at The Market, or relax by the beachside Mediterranean restaurant and bar Ula, an all-encompassing dynamic space inspired by the earth, sun and passion of the Arabian Gulf.

Guests can also feast with their feet in the sand and sample rich Californian flavours at the Beach House or share special moments at Boons, a modern twist on a neighbourhood brasserie and bar. Sweet-toothed foodies can catch up over delicious treats including pastries, all-day refreshments, Mvenpick ice creams and the signature "Chocolate Hour" at the boutique Mca Lobby Lounge.

Set to open in September, Neo Sky Bar will be the island's only rooftop lounge, where diners can spend a stylish yet classic evening under the stars, enjoying flowing cocktails and sweeping views of Ras Al Khaimah's twinkling skyline.

The resort extends unrivalled kids' facilities with an exclusive year-round Starfish Adventure Kids Club and tailored programs for three different age groups. It also houses a 200 -sq-m of indoor Kids Zone, a specially constructed outdoor playground, a dedicated kids pool, and a fun filled Wibit floating waterpark in Ras Al Khaimah.

Thrill seekers, young and old, can frolic in the glistening beach with extreme motorized and non-motorized water sports also available, the best the city has to offer.

Guests can experience complete relaxation with access to a 300m pristine private beach and wellness hub, with four treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym. For social gatherings, the resort's modern and flexible event spaces include two large meeting rooms ideal for product launches, corporate team-building retreats, or conferences for up to 300 delegates, in addition to interactive activities such as table tennis and a pool table located in the break-out room.

A 530-sq-m pillar-free ballroom bathed in natural light, is also available making it the perfect setting for grand weddings and special occasions.

Commenting on the launch, General Manager, Fabien Chesnais said: "We are thrilled to be opening the doors to Ras Al Khaimah's first Mvenpick Resort in the region. The much-awaited Mvenpick Resort Al Marjan Island offers an unbeatable beachfront location and unique offerings, including an exceptional kids' program and a floating water park, in addition to a variety of dining options and an incredible private beach".

Nestled amidst the tranquil blue waters of Al Marjan island, the resort is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Arabian Peninsula and surrounded by the majestic Yanis and Jais Mountains. Easily accessible for travellers, it is a 45-min drive from Dubai International Airport, 40-min drive from Sharjah International Airport and a 30-min drive from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.


Mandatory mid-day break for labourers to start from June 15

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) has announced the start of the mid-day break for labourers at project and construction sites from June 15 to September 15.

According to the ministry, under the rule, working under direct sunlight will not be allowed from 12.30-3pm. This is to ensure a safe working environment for labourers and to protect them from the risks of exposure to high temperatures during the summer months. The rule has led to a significant reduction in cases of workers' exposure to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.


Sheraton Jeddah Hotel opens on city waterfront

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, part of Marriott Bonvoy's portfolio of 30 extraordinary brands, has unveiled the newly renovated Sheraton Jeddah Hotel on the city's waterfront.

Drawing on its roots as a community hub for locals and guests at flagship locations, the new approach for Sheraton creates an intuitive and holistic experience with places to connect and be productive.

"We are delighted to introduce Sheraton's new design vision in Saudi Arabia and look forward to welcoming guests to discover the modernised look," said Ahmed Hozaien, Area Vice President - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Egypt, Marriott International.

"Sheraton Hotels & Resorts has a long-standing history in this market, and we are proud to build on this legacy showcasing the brand's contemporary updates as part of its global transformation. The reimagining of Sheraton Jeddah Hotel reinforces our commitment to offering premium accommodation for leisure and business travellers who are seeking an elevated experience, while enjoying all the familiar comforts of the Sheraton brand."

Following extensive renovations, Sheraton Jeddah Hotel offers 172 redesigned guestrooms and suites. Guests are welcomed into a natural light-filled space with warm, residential appeal, along with new tools for productivity including a height-adjustable worktable with integrated power and charging stations, while still retaining some of the classic Sheraton signature amenities such as the iconic Sheraton Sleep Experience bed.

Enhanced technology in the guestrooms include upgraded internet connectivity and 55-inch TVs with built-in Chromecast and live streaming. Flooded with natural light and featuring soft finishes and light wood tones, the guestrooms offer expansive views of the Red Sea.

Reimagined as a holistic, open space the elevated lobby features Sheraton's signature design elements aimed to foster a sense of community and ignite productivity including the brand's signature Community Tables, tech-enabled Studios, and purpose-built workspaces. In line with Sheraton's elevated food and beverage philosophy, Thrive Caf is the anchor of the public space, serving international and local flavours from morning to evening.

The Sheraton Club offers break-taking views across the Red Sea. True to the brand's vision, the exclusive space available to Marriott Bonvoy Elite members and guests who upgrade their stay, is welcoming, stylish, and purposefully designed for an engaging experience. Here guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast, evening appetisers, and a selection of refreshments.

Three elevated dining venues offer international and local cuisine, all-day dining and outdoor BBQ grills overlooking the Red Sea. Surrounded by local attractions, the hotel is located in a popular leisure destination for residents and travellers alike with direct access to explore the Red Sea's coral reefs either snorkelling or diving.

For guests seeking adventure, there is a vast range of entertainment facilities and cultural attractions nearby including the Fakieh Aquarium, Red Sea Mall, the old town of Al Balad, and The Royal Greens Golf and Country Club - with an 18-hole championship golf course.

Additional facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, Sheraton Fitness Centre for men and women, tennis and squash courts, five meeting rooms, and a ballroom with private access


VFS extends UK visa waiver assistance in Saudi, Bahrain

VFS Global, the world's largest outsourcing and technology services specialist, said that nationals of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia can now apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) when travelling to the UK.

Travellers can apply in advance from the comfort of their home, anywhere between three months and 48 hours prior to their intended date of travel, for the purposes of tourism, business, study or medical treatment.

Having extended to the two new locations, VFS Global now offers EVW assistance in six countries in the GCC - Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

With an EVW, travellers visiting the UK for up to six months need no longer apply for a visit visa, enrol biometrics at the Visa Application Centre, or hand in their passports in advance for processing. Customers can provide their information, upload their travel documents, and make the fee payment online. With its trained professionals VFS Global can provide assistance in completing the EVW application .

Atul Marwah, Head-Middle East & North Africa, VFS Global, said: "VFS Global is excited to roll out the EVW service in a further two countries in the Middle East, and we thank UKVI for their continued faith in us. The Kingdoms of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia remain key source markets for the UK, and this service is ideal for travellers looking to visit the country for a short term, while providing them an easier, more cost-effective, and convenient visa application journey."


Saudi Arabia drops mask mandate and other Covid-19 measures

People in Saudi Arabia will no longer be required to wear face masks as authorities dropped a series of measures designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Proof of vaccination and Covid-19 status will also no longer be required to enter public places or take transport, with limited exemptions for settings which require them, the Ministry of Interior said on Monday.

For those who wish to leave the kingdom, the maximum time allowed between the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine and a booster shot has been extended to eight months from the original three.

Masks will still be required at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, both of which will soon be full of thousands completing Hajj. The ministry said it was still encouraging Saudis to be vaccinated against the disease, which has killed more than 9,000 people in the kingdom.


Luxurious Parisian-inspired Radisson hotel opens in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's newest hotel looks as if it could be right at home in the streets of Paris.

Mansard Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel has opened its doors in the kingdom's capital offering luxury villas, French-inspired architecture and warm Arabian hospitality.

Located in the Ar Rabi neighbourhood of Riyadh, the hotel is designed in Haussmann style - the architectural trend that defines modern-day Paris.

Sporting a cream-coloured granite facade and sloped mansard roof, the building imitates the neatly dressed apartment blocks found in the City of Light's leafy fashionable boulevards.

Each villa in the resort is named after one of Paris's squares, so you could find yourself checking into the Vendome, Concorde or Opera.

Inside, the hotel channels its sense of location with artwork by local artist Mishal Saad Alzaid lining the corridors.

There are a mix of 191 rooms, serviced apartments and duplex villas, all split between three buildings spread over two blocks.

Interiors showcase contemporary furniture and a soothing colour scheme, designed to help evoke a sense of tranquillity in the heart of Saudi Arabia's capital.


COVID-19: Saudi lifts travel restrictions to Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Vietnam

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia lifted coronavirus travel restrictions on Monday on its citizens travelling to Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Vietnam, state news agency SPA reported.

Earlier this month, the kingdom lifted measures imposed to prevent the spread of the virus, including a requirement to wears face masks indoors.


UK e-visa waiver does not apply in some cases, Saudi travelers cautioned

LONDON - Saudi Arabia's embassy in the United Kingdom has clarified that the UK electronic visa waiver for Saudi citizens does not guarantee entry into the country in three instances even if their application was approved.

The embassy indicated that the approval of the electronic visa waiver does not guarantee the entry of Saudi citizens to British territory in the following cases:

1 - Saudi citizens who have previously been refused entry visas.

2 - Saudi citizens who have been asked by the authorities to leave the UK because of a criminal record.

3 - Saudi citizens whose length of stay during a previous visit to the UK exceeded the permitted period.

The embassy warned citizens who fell in the above three categories would likely face refusal of e-visa waiver and called on them to submit applications for a regular British visa to avoid any obstacles upon arrival.

British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton announced earlier that the Saudi citizens would be able to apply for a UK e-visa waiver, starting from the 1st of June.

An electronic visa waiver allows the holder to travel to the UK without obtaining a visa provided they complete an online waiver for each visit. A small fee will be applied, and it is quicker than applying for a visa as there is no need to provide biometric information (photo and fingerprints), attend a visa application center or hand in your passport ahead of travel.

"The electronic visa waiver is a quick, digital alternative to the regular visit visa and ensures all the necessary security checks are carried out in advance. The visa improvements will provide greater security for our citizens while making it easier and cheaper for visitors from the Gulf to travel here for leisure and business," the ambassador said.


Bahrain to implement outdoor work ban from July 1

Bahrain has announced a outdoor work ban - which restricts labourers and workers from doing work during the afternoon - for the months of July and August, reported BNA.

The ban will be on any work being carried out under direct sunlight and in open places from noon until 4 pm, stated the report, citing the Ministry of Labour.

The aim is to protect workers and ensure their safety from heat stress, sunstroke and various summer diseases, and to reduce occupational accidents during the hottest months of the year, the ministry added.

Announcing the noon work-ban, Labour Minister Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan said: "Bahrain is committed to banning afternoon work under searing temperatures and high humidity in line with human rights principles and the need to provide a safe and healthy work environment."

The strict application of the ban in the previous years has contributed to reducing the risks of work injuries, he added.

The minister stressed that ongoing work at the existing projects won't get affected and will be completed on time, especially as companies can reschedule the work timings during the ban.

Compliance with the ban by private sector establishments in the last five years exceeded 98%, he added.


AUB and EWA launch new channels to collect dues

The Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) and Ahli United Bank (AUB) have announced the launch of advanced collection solutions through two new payment channels, namely electronic payments through the corporate digital channel, and acceptance of cash deposits through 40 ATMs around the kingdom. The two new solutions are geared towards businesses and individuals, respectively; and will afford them unprecedented convenience, accessibility, and ease of use .


'Sehati' health card to be rolled out soon

EVERY citizen and resident in Bahrain will receive a chip-enabled card containing their medical data, announced the Supreme Council of Health (SCH). The golden 'Sehati' card, which will be rolled out nationwide gradually, aims to enable public healthcare records to be seamlessly transferred to private hospitals and clinics .


Ikea megastore to open in Oman Avenues Mall on June 19

Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant and home furnishing retailer, will open its doors to the first flagship store at Oman Avenues Mall on June 19.

The two-storey 25,000 sq m outlet will include cutting-edge customer experience technology and will offer inspirational unique home furnishing ideas, it said.

Oman Avenues Mall has embarked on an all-encompassing transformational journey to stay relevant in light of the changing retail landscape, which included macro-scale infrastructure augmentation.

Easily accessible through Sultan Qaboos Street, the new development will be connected to major population centres via dedicated flyovers, bridges and the recently expanded roads.

Al Taher Group, the developers of Oman Avenues Mall, are on the brink of completing all complementary work for the launch of Ikea. Also, the mall has introduced 550 parking bays on the roof level directly connecting the parking lots to the cinemas, the food court and the family entertainment centre on the second level as well as an additional 500 parking bays to the lower ground level.

"With innovation, design and value behind every component mapped out, we can affirm that we are positioned to take on large-scale projects to meet the demands and serve the community. As we are nearing the launch date of Ikea Oman, the road infrastructural works are progressing towards completion," said Eng Saud Mohammed Al Khalili, Development Director, Al Taher Group.

"By adding Ikea to its retail portfolio, Oman Avenues Mall will further enhance its offerings whilst simultaneously creating an inviting atmosphere," he added.

"We are ecstatic to be hosting the country's very first IKEA megastore at Oman Avenues Mall. After analysing people's demands, we realised the gap in the market and worked on delivering the best solution to future-proof the mall by hosting a globally renowned brand like IKEA. The trust retailers have in us is a testimony of our dedication and perseverance to continue offering our services," said Ashraf Ali M A, Executive Director of Lulu Group International, which manages the mall.

"We are fully prepared and waiting to open doors to our first guests and deliver the experience we have promised. Our approach is to ensure that visitors get what they are looking for and far more from their very first interaction at the mall," he added.

Harnessing technology and digitalisation, the mall developers have also fitted smart navigation stands, interactive digital screens, wall projectors to assist in room planning and product selection and much more. Shoppers will be assisted by digital signage and in-store technology to locate the most suitable furniture, visualise room layouts and schedule deliveries in the shortest time. Delivering a smarter and more personalised shopping experience, the mall has focused on digitising customer service as well as elevating innovation and sustainability.

The new Ikea store will have over 9000 articles covering living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and other home dcor selections. Furthermore, products will also be available virtually through a comprehensive, user-friendly website.

The premises also include a 400-seater restaurant serving Ikea's world-famous delicacies.


Employment visa fee reduction for expats from today

Muscat - Following the Royal Directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to reduce fees related to recruitment of expatriate workforce in the country, the Ministry of Labour will implement the revised fees from today (Wednesday).

The decision, which applies to both issuance and renewal of work permits for expatriates, will see the reduction go up to 85 per cent for companies committed to Omanisation ratio. The new work permit fees for first class professions will be RO301 (previously RO2001), while the rate will be further reduced to RO211 if the company meets the Omanisation percentage.

Visa for specialised and technical positions has been reduced to RO251 (previously RO1001- OR601). The rate will be reduced by 30 per cent to OR176 if the Omanisation ratio is met by companies.

For the unskilled jobs, the visa fees has been reduced to RO210 (previously RO301). A 30 per cent discount will mean paying RO141 in case of meeting the Omanisation percentage.


Kuwait suspends issue of visit visas

Kuwait has stopped issuing visit visas, including family and tourist visas, starting Monday, June 27, 2022, and until further notice, the interior ministry announced.

The decision, made upon instructions of First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, comes to allow the Residency Affairs Department to prepare a new mechanism with regulations to organize and improve the visa issuing process, the ministry explained in a statement.


LuLu Hypermarket opens largest fulfillment center in Kuwait

In a step designed to strengthen and consolidate its premier presence in the e- commerce segment in Kuwait, LuLu Hypermarket, the leading retailer in the region, launched its largest fulfillment-center in Kuwait on 22 June at the Agility Logistics Park in Doha area.

The center was inaugurated by Municipal Council member Abdullah Al-Enezi , along with Directors of Procurement, and Retail Operations at Lulu Group International, Mujeeb Rehman Theparambil and Shabu Abdul Majeed respectively. The event was held in the presence of top management of LuLu Hypermarket Kuwait, the CEO Kuwait and GCC of Agility Logistics Park Nadeer Sakeen, and a large gathering of shoppers and well-wishers, as well as leading online bloggers and social media influencers.

The LuLu Fulfillment Center, which will serve as the logistics hub for the hypermarket's growing e-commerce activity in Kuwait, is expected to enhance the world-class online shopping experience for customers in the country.

Occupying an area of over 80,000 square-feet at the Agility Logistic Park, Doha, the Center is equipped with the latest in storage systems and smart warehousing technologies that help receive, organize and store all product categories, from fresh and frozen foods to other non-grocery products. It has an expansive and modern fleet with capability to meet the widest possible range of customer demands. The facility will act as an exclusive fulfillment centre for the entire spectrum of online transactions will serve as the logistics hub for the Group's growing e-commerce activity in Kuwait.

The cutting-edge solutions employed at the logistics center assists in the safe, rapid and efficient dispatch of items to fulfill online customer requests. Operations of the center is also supported by a large fleet of specialized transport vehicles equipped with temperature-controlled compartments that ensure the quality and freshness of foods transported from the center to customers' doors.

The LuLu Fulfillment Center is expected to further boost the leadership role that the brand enjoys in the local and regional retail space.


Qatar to wait longer before imposing VAT

Qatar, one of only two Arab economies in the Gulf region without value-added tax, will likely wait longer before imposing the levy.

More than half a decade since signing an agreement with neighbouring states that requires all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to introduce VAT, Qatar and Kuwait are alone in not following through.

Last year, Al Kuwari said his country hasn't yet chosen when to go ahead and was wary of adding an extra burden on consumers in the midst of the pandemic. A KPMG report earlier this year said Qatar was expected to impose a VAT regime at a rate of 5 per cent during 2022.

One reason the approach is lacking in urgency is that the gas-rich nation is among the biggest beneficiaries from higher energy prices and is on track to run a large budget surplus. While cost pressures are muted in the region, inflation is picking up in Qatar, the host of this fall's soccer World Cup.


Morocco to Launch Rabat-Fez High-Speed Train

The new Rabar-Fez high-speed train is part of a larger strategy to construct a railway network to interlink Moroccan cities.

According to converging news reports, Morocco's National Railways Office (ONCF) has already concluded initial studies for the project.

The studies in question pertain to the first part of the railroad linking Rabat, Khemisset, and Meknes.

In addition to the feasibility studies, the ONCF is also set to carry out the second phase of the feasibility study relating to the environmental, and social impact of the project.

ONCF is equally set to launch project studies on the execution and the financing of the project.

The new Rabar-Fez high-speed train is part of a larger strategy to construct a railway network to interlink Moroccan cities.

The ambitious strategy would see the construction of 1,300 kilometers of railways linking 43 cities, up from the 23 kilometers currently available, according to official statements quoted in various news reports. Under the new strategy, the share of the railways with the public transit market would increase from 51% to 87%.

Once operational, these new lines of the railway would support Morocco's industrial development as the country looks to connect its fourteen ports and ten airports with the railway system.

News of launching the new line coincides with the third anniversary of launching the first high-speed line, the "Al Boraq" train.

Al Boraq has by far proved to be popular among Moroccan railway users, as estimates suggest that the number of passengers doubled between 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, the high-speed train transported 2.4 million passengers, compared to 1.3 million the previous year.

The train's turnover has equally maintained an upwards trajectory, going from MAD 165 million ($15.8 million) in 2020 to MAD 317 million ($30.3 million) a year later.

Mobility Management Middle East

Middle East:
Saudi Arabia

Ivory Coast

Other Countries: