Qataris head to Saudi Arabia after reopening of border

UAE, Bahrain and Egypt too agree to lift travel curbs

January 11, 2021 04:36 am | Updated 04:36 am IST - Salwa

  Ready to roll:  Qataris showing their documents to Saudi customs officials at a check point on Sunday.

Ready to roll: Qataris showing their documents to Saudi customs officials at a check point on Sunday.

Qataris celebrated crossing their border with Saudi Arabia on Sunday, calling the Kingdom “our second country”, as Doha readied its strict coronavirus measures for Saudis to enter following a Gulf diplomatic thaw.

Drivers arrived at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia, 500 km east of the capital Riyadh, from the Qatari land crossing at Abu Samrah for the second day following its re-opening, AFP correspondents reported.

Saudi Arabia shut its side of Qatar’s only land border in June 2017 as part of a package of sanctions it said was a response to Doha’s backing of radical Islamist groups and closeness to Iran.

Qatar always denied the charges.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, all of which had also imposed embargoes on travel and trade, agreed to lift the restrictions at a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the kingdom on Tuesday.

‘Our second country’

“Coming from Qatar is like coming to our second country, where there’s no difference between them and us in their traditions,” said Mohammed al-Marri, a Qatari who had travelled into Saudi Arabia.

Since the re-opening of the border, 167 Qatari cars had entered Saudi Arabia, while 35 Qatari vehicles had crossed back into Qatar, said Ali Lablabi, general manager of Salwa’s customs department.

“This happiness — no one can describe it,” said Ghaith al-Marri, a Qatari. “There are people who started crying” when the border re-opened”.

Qatar Airways and Saudi Airlines said on Saturday on Twitter that they would begin resuming flights between their countries from Monday.

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