Saudi Arabia is set to open its first store serving alcohol to cater to non-Muslim diplomats only in a move to modify strict rules governing liquor in the country.
According to AFP, two sources familiar with the plan disclosed this on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
Alcohol “will be sold to non-Muslim diplomats” who previously had to import alcohol via a diplomatic pouch, or sealed official package, one of the sources said.
The store will open in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the report said.It will require customers to register via an app, get permission from the foreign ministry, and stick to monthly quotas, the report said.
It’ll be located in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, but it’s unclear if it’ll also cater to non-Muslim expatriates.
Prohibition has been the law of the land in Saudi Arabia since 1952, shortly after one of King Abdulaziz’s sons got drunk and, in a rage, shot dead a British diplomat.
The move comes as Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is seeking to liberalize the image of Saudi Arabia, whose laws derive from an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam.
In recent years laws restricting women have been loosened, including the lifting of a ban on driving.
Under Saudi law, alcohol is banned, and judges can hand out severe punishments including public flogging for those who violate them.
However there is a black market, and authorities often turn a blind eye to home brewing and alcohol consumption in the compounds where many foreigners live.
Bars serving non-alcoholic cocktails have opened in Riyadh, and alcohol will be available in a beach resort in the under-construction megacity of Neom, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Crown Prince Mohammed is trying to attract foreign tourism and billions in investment as he pivots the kingdom away from its reliance on fossil fuels as part of its Vision 2030 plan.