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 told said on Thursday.

However, 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 said.

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

The changes have come too fast for religious conservatives, with King Abdullah, under pressure from Islamists, telling local media in May not to publish pictures of Saudi women.

Newspapers, breaking with tradition, have begun printing photographs of Saudi women, usually with hair covered but faces showing, which many strict Islamists consider immoral.