Saudi Arabia’s first alcohol store

January 26, 20240 Comments

The inaugural alcohol store in Saudi Arabia has opened within the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, specifically catering to non-Muslim diplomats.

This development, though impacting a limited demographic, signifies a significant shift for the traditionally conservative Muslim nation. The prohibition of alcohol dates back to 1952 when a Saudi prince, in an inebriated state, fatally assaulted a British diplomat. Given the religious observance in Saudi Arabia, where Islam prohibits drinking, the ban has been upheld despite the clandestine importation of alcohol over the years.

Previously, foreign embassies could import alcohol through agreements with the Saudi government, and some resorted to discreet methods like utilizing secure “diplomatic pouches” that elude inspection. The subsequent resale of these alcohol bottles on the black market, often at exorbitant prices, became prevalent, prompting the Saudi government to address the issue. An anonymous Saudi investor remarked on the emergence of a black market for alcohol, necessitating government intervention.

In response to these challenges, the new alcohol store in Riyadh is accompanied by stringent rules. Access and purchases are regulated through an app named Diplo, requiring approval from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The sales are subject to a monthly quota system for each registered individual. This controlled purchasing system aims to combat the long-standing issue of alcohol smuggling by diplomats. The Saudi government has officially acknowledged the need for alcohol quota regulations to counter the illicit trade, as mentioned by the country’s Center of International Communication (CIC).

However, the Saudi Foreign Ministry and CIC have yet to respond to requests for comment. Expatriates have historically employed creative methods to bring alcohol into the country, highlighting the lengths individuals have gone to evade strict penalties, including fines, lashes, deportation, or imprisonment, imposed by Saudi Arabia for alcohol-related offenses.

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