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Saudi Arabia Opens its First Alcohol Store for Non-Muslim Diplomats

Saudi Arabia will soon open its first alcohol store in 70 years, according to a report from Reuters.

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Located in the Kingdom’s capital of Riyadh, the store will only serve alcohol to non-Muslim diplomats. It does not nullify the law stating that it is illegal for Saudi Arabia’s citizens to consume alcohol. The ban has been in place since the 1950s and follows the tenet of Islam which forbids the drinking of alcohol.

As per a document on the alcohol store seen by Reuters, the service is “strictly restricted” to non-Muslim customers who must register via an app, and get permission from the Foreign Ministry before purchase while adhering to monthly quotas. The store is reportedly set next to a supermarket in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh and is described as an upscale duty-free shop seen at major international airports. Diplomatic identifications are required to be presented at the store, and customers’ mobile phones are placed in pouches while inside.

The opening of the alcohol store follows the widespread efforts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to position Saudi Arabia as a major hub for business and tourism as part of the Vision 2030 initiative. It also follows recent reports that mentioned Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aim to counter the  “improper exchange of special goods and alcoholic beverages received by the embassies of Non-Muslim countries inside Saudi Arabia,” via new amendments that will “allow and ensure that all diplomats of non-Muslim embassies have access to these special products and spirits within a specifed qoutas and via a regulated process that prohibit illegal exchange activities.”

Other Gulf nations to have strict alcohol laws include Kuwait, which has prohibited the sale and purchase of all liquor within its borders since 1965, as well as Sharjah, UAE where spirits are not served in hotels and restaurants. In Qatar and Oman, residents can only buy alcohol after obtaining a permit, while public drinking is punishable by law.

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