Saudi Arabia set to open first alcohol store, serving only diplomats

Spread the love
Move marks break with decades of strict alcohol prohibition in the kingdom
A selection of alcohol beverages including Arabic liquor arak on display in a shop (Hazem Bader/AFP)
By Alex MacDonald

Saudi Arabia is set to open the country’s first liquor store, catering exclusively to diplomats, breaking with decades of strict alcohol prohibition in the kingdom.

A source informed Reuters that the store will be opened in the capital Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, and would be “strictly restricted” to non-Muslims.

The store is expected to open in the coming weeks.

Since it was officially prohibited in 1952, the kingdom has strictly banned alcoholic beverages in the country, without even the limited exceptions made by some otherwise teetotal neighbouring Gulf states such as the UAE and Qatar.

While underground consumption of alcohol always existed in the country (with foreign officials often acquiring it through diplomatic pouches) the new store marks the first legal sales of alcoholic beverages – a move likely to anger many conservative Muslims who view consumption as prohibited by Islamic teachings.

The move comes in the wake of regulations announced over the weekend by local media aimed at curbing the “improper exchange” of alcohol between diplomatic residences.

A Saudi government statement on Wednesday said the authorities were introducing “a new regulatory framework…to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions”.

“The new process will focus on allocating specific quantities of alcohol goods when entering the Kingdom to put an end to the previous unregulated process that caused an uncontrolled exchange of such goods in the Kingdom.”

Decades of prohibition

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been keen to push a number of social reforms in the kingdom as part of his much-touted Saudi 2030 Vision.

He overturned a ban on women driving in 2018 and has allowed public concerts and the proliferation of cinemas, even as he imposed a widespread crackdown on both liberal and conservative critics within the kingdom and stifled dissent.

UAE opens its first brewery in Abu Dhabi

Read More »

However, despite rumours, there had been numerous public pushbacks on any suggestion of overturning the 72-year alcohol ban.

The 1952 ban came in response to an incident involving Prince Mishari bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and a British diplomat, Cyril Ousman.

At a party hosted by the diplomat, then British vice-consul in Jeddah, the 19-year-old prince shot Ousman dead after he refused to serve him more alcohol.

Following the killing – which saw Prince Mishari sentenced to life imprisonment – King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, founder of the modern Saudi state, banned all alcohol in the country.

People convicted of consuming alcohol in Saudi Arabia could previously be served with fines, jail time, public flogging and deportation for foreigners.

Post Disclaimer

Disclaimer: Saudi Arabia set to open first alcohol store, serving only diplomats - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *