February 29, 2024

Saudi Arabia is set to open its first-ever alcohol store in the capital, Riyadh, exclusively catering to non-Muslim diplomats, according to a reliable source and an associated document. This initiative aligns with the broader vision of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to boost tourism and diversify the nation’s economy under the ambitious Vision 2030 plan.

Customers interested in purchasing alcohol from the store will need to register through a mobile app, obtain clearance from the foreign ministry, and adhere to monthly purchase quotas, as outlined in the document seen by Reuters. Situated in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, reserved for embassies and diplomats, the store will be strictly restricted to non-Muslims, signaling a significant departure from the country’s stringent alcohol laws.

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The store’s impending opening, expected in the coming weeks, marks a pivotal moment in Saudi Arabia’s societal reforms. While millions of expatriates reside in the kingdom, the majority are Muslim workers, leaving it unclear whether other non-Muslim expatriates will have access to the new facility.

As part of the evolving landscape, the government has also imposed new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic consignments, with the Center of International Communication emphasizing that the regulations aim to counter illicit alcohol trade while ensuring diplomats from non-Muslim embassies have regulated access.

Social media responses reflected a mix of surprise and approval, with one user expressing, “Massive changes underway in KSA,” and another highlighting the end of a potential black market for alcohol. Previously, non-Muslim diplomats could import alcoholic products, but a ban was imposed due to concerns about smuggling.

With the forthcoming alcohol store, diplomats will have a legal avenue to acquire these products, marking a significant step towards a more open and regulated approach to alcohol consumption in the kingdom.

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