Flowers, tears of joy, and warm hugs: celebrations fill Doha and Riyadh’s airports as families reunite after more than three years of separation.
The first direct Qatar-Saudi flights completed their journeys on Tuesday, marking an historical moment for all GCC families who’ve been affected by the three-year-long blockade.
Qatar Airways’ flight to Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport landed at 3 pm Saudi time. Flight QR 1164 Boeing 787-8 marked the first-ever direct flight to Saudi Arabia since the 2017 blockade.
Before the flight departed Hamad International Airport, officials told Doha News that the plane was almost completely full. To mark the historic occasion, Doha News went to the airport to film the first batch of travellers.
Upon their arrival, people were greeted warmly as family members and friends rushed to hug their loved ones at the airport in an emotional moment. Thousands of people have not seen their families since the blockade, making the recent Al Ula declaration not only a significant political move, but an eagerly awaited step to reunite families after years of separation.
Some even brought flowers, waiting patiently for a warm welcome to embrace their loved ones.
The national carrier announced that it would restart daily service to Riyadh, four weekly flights to the Red Sea city of Jeddah and daily flights to the eastern city of Damman using wide-body aircraft.
“We also look forward to resuming a strong relationship with our trade and cargo partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the major airports in the country,” Qatar Airways said in a statement.
Shortly after the QA plane landed, a Saudia flight touched down in Doha and passengers were greeted with gift bags and warm welcomes.
Qatar’s flag carrier, vessels and vehicles are now able to freely move through the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s territories after being banned from doing so for over three years.
The crisis was triggered in 2017 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with Doha and imposed an illegal land, air and sea blockade over accusations it “supports terrorism”. Qatar has consistently and categorically rejected the accusations, saying the move against Doha was an attempt to strip it of its sovereignty.
On January 5th, the countries involved in the dispute announced they would fully restore diplomatic relations after signing the Al-Ula Declaration during a ceremony at the annual GCC summit.
The declaration stipulated several collaborations, among them providing GCC citizens with the freedom of movement, investment, employment and equal opportunities in education and healthcare across the region.