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Screen Shot 2016 07 18 at 01.42.43Mada'in Saleh

Desert “glamping,” pristine diving spots and some of the best archaeological sites you’ve never heard of all await visitors to Saudi Arabia. There is just one catch: The ultraconservative kingdom doesn’t issue tourist visas.

But that now looks set to change.

Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth has allowed the ruling monarchy to keep the country and its economy largely insulated from outside influences while imposing an austere version of Islam. But a sharp drop in crude prices over the past two years is pressuring the Saudi royals to open both the economy and the country’s vastly underdeveloped tourism industry to the wider world.

“It is the last frontier of tourism,” said Brid Beeler, a Washington-based tourism consultant who organizes and leads rare customized tours of Saudi Arabia. “There are no places in the world like it, that are so unknown.”

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Screen Shot 2016 07 18 at 01.51.22 copyMada'in Saleh

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