Saudi Arabia is getting ready to open its first store selling alcohol in the capital city of Riyadh. This store will specifically cater to non-Muslim foreigners in the country. Until now, these diplomats had to bring in alcohol using special foreign packages.
The new alcohol store will be located in the Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter, a neighborhood with many foreign missions. The Saudi government is introducing new rules to control the trade of alcohol received by diplomatic missions.
According to officials, this new process aims to regulate the quantities of alcohol entering the country, putting an end to the uncontrolled exchange of such goods. It’s important to note that alcohol is considered prohibited in Islam (‘haram’), making this issue particularly sensitive in Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Muslim world.
Under current laws, drinking alcohol in Saudi Arabia can result in severe punishments, including lashes, deportation, fines, or time in jail. However, recent changes have replaced beatings with jail sentences.
This change in the alcohol policy comes as Saudi Arabia battles with its neighbors, especially Dubai, for foreign investment and tourism. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Dubai allows the sale of alcohol in various hotels, restaurants, and bars.
The Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 program, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to transition to a post-oil economy and has led to some relaxation of the country’s traditional values. The recent approval to host the FIFA World Cup in 2034 is part of this shift, and the country is learning from Qatar’s experience by making adjustments to its alcohol policies.