Saudis lift ban on photography

SAUDI Arabia has lifted a ban on photography in public areas, part of a drive by the conservative kingdom's tourism organisation to attract more visitors to the birthplace of Islam.

A royal decree allowing photography in many public places was issued about a year ago, and the interior ministry enacted it earlier this week.

"People can now take pictures of tourist sites, architectural landmarks, shopping malls as well as government buildings where there is no sign banning photography," a ministry official said yesterday.

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Permission is still needed to photograph private property or individuals. "Royal palaces, for instance, are private property, so taking a picture of them requires authorisation," he added.

"This decree ... will help promote the kingdom's image and its tourist and development venues through photography," the state tourism body said.

Some changes have come too fast for religious conservatives. King Abdullah, under pressure from Islamic fundamentalists, told local media in May not to publish pictures of Saudi women.