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Saudi Arabia Introduces Exclusive Alcohol Store for Non-Muslim Diplomats in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia Introduces Exclusive Alcohol Store for Non-Muslim Diplomats in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has taken a significant step by opening its first alcohol store in Riyadh, catering exclusively to non-Muslim diplomats. This move, while maintaining the longstanding prohibition against alcohol consumption for Saudi citizens, marks a notable shift in the Kingdom's approach towards non-Muslim foreign residents. The ban, rooted in Islamic principles, has been in effect since the 1950s and continues to uphold the religious tenet forbidding alcohol.

The store operates under stringent regulations, as outlined in a document reviewed by Reuters. Access is "strictly restricted" to non-Muslim diplomats who must undergo a registration process through an app and secure approval from the Foreign Ministry prior to making purchases, all while adhering to prescribed monthly quotas. Situated adjacent to a supermarket in Riyadh's diplomatic quarter, the store is likened to an upscale duty-free outlet commonly found in major international airports. Entry requires diplomatic identification, and to ensure privacy and security, customers' mobile phones are secured in pouches during their visit.

This initiative is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious Vision 2030, aimed at rebranding Saudi Arabia as a key player in global business and tourism sectors. The opening also aligns with efforts to regulate the "improper exchange of special goods and alcoholic beverages" among non-Muslim embassies within the Kingdom, by introducing amendments to ensure regulated access to these items within specific quotas, thereby curbing illegal activities.

This development is distinct within the Gulf region, known for its stringent alcohol policies. For instance, Kuwait has enforced a complete ban on alcohol since 1965, and Sharjah in the UAE prohibits alcohol in hotels and restaurants. In Qatar and Oman, alcohol purchases are tightly controlled, requiring permits for residents, with public consumption being legally punishable.

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