In a significant development, Saudi Arabia has reportedly opened its first alcohol store since 1952, breaking the longstanding prohibition on alcohol in the country. CNBC, citing anonymous sources in Riyadh, reported on the opening of the store, although official confirmation from Saudi authorities is still pending.
According to information obtained by journalists, access to the store will be restricted to non-Muslim diplomats who must pre-authorize their visit through the Diplo app. Those under 21 years old will not be allowed, photography is strictly prohibited, and mobile phones must be placed in specially secured bags to prevent their use inside the store. Monthly quotas on alcohol purchases per person will also be enforced.
Rumors among expatriates in Saudi Arabia have circulated for years about the possibility of opening an alcohol store for foreigners, as part of the government’s efforts to liberalize the country and attract tourists and expatriates. The new store, located in the diplomatic quarter, is seen as a small step in that direction, according to CNBC sources.
Granting permission for alcohol sales to non-Muslim foreigners could potentially curb the scale of smuggling by embassy workers, who are permitted to bring alcohol into the country and often engage in large-scale black-market sales, the publication notes.
The sale of alcohol used to be legal in the kingdom before 1952. However, it was banned by King Ibn Saud in 1952. Ordinary people who consume alcohol in the kingdom will be fined and jailed, and foreigners will also be deported.