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Saudi Arabia To Open First Alcohol Store For Non-Muslim Diplomats: Report

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New Delhi: Saudi Arabia is set to open its first alcohol store in Riyadh, exclusively catering to non-Muslim diplomats, as revealed by a source and a document on Wednesday.

To make purchases, customers must register through a mobile app, acquire a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and adhere to monthly quotas, according to the document. This development, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, signifies a breakthrough in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to open the traditionally conservative Muslim country for tourism and business, recognizing that alcohol consumption is prohibited in Islam.

It aligns with the broader Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying the economy beyond oil. Positioned in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, reserved for embassies and diplomats, the new store will be “strictly restricted” to non-Muslims, raising questions about potential access for other non-Muslim expatriates in the country, where the majority are Muslim workers from Asia and Egypt.

The store is set to open in the coming weeks, revealed a source familiar with the plans.

Saudi Arabia maintains strict laws against alcohol consumption, with punishments ranging from lashings, deportation, fines, to imprisonment; recent reforms have replaced lashings with jail sentences. Previously, alcohol could only be obtained through diplomatic channels or the black market.

Despite a request for comment, the Saudi government has not responded.

State-controlled media reported new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic shipments, potentially increasing demand for the upcoming store. The regulation aims to control imports and prevent the “improper exchange of special goods and alcoholic beverages received by the embassies of non-Muslim countries inside Saudi Arabia,” as reported by Arab News.

Saudi Arabia, historically closed off, has recently relaxed strict social norms, including gender segregation and dress codes, under Crown Prince Mohammed’s leadership. His consolidation of power has brought about changes, such as opening the country to non-religious tourism, concerts, allowing women to drive, and a crackdown on dissent. Vision 2030, the broader plan, focuses on developing local industries and logistics hubs to generate jobs for Saudi nationals.

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