Saudi Arabia's Historic Move: Opening an Alcohol Store for Non-Muslim Diplomats

By Ivan PetrenkoJan 25, 2024 03:16 AMNews
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Dammam Saudi Arabia
Dammam Saudi Arabia. Source: unsplash

In a groundbreaking development, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of inaugurating its first-ever alcohol store, a move that signifies a notable shift in the conservative kingdom's policies. According to Reuters, this store, located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter, is exclusively designated for "non-Muslim diplomats." This initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030, which aims to diversify its economy and boost tourism.

A Landmark Decision Amidst Conservative Norms

This unique alcohol outlet, which is set to open in the coming weeks, will operate under strict regulations. Customers are required to register through a mobile app and obtain clearance from the Saudi foreign ministry, adhering to prescribed monthly quotas. The store's establishment in the Diplomatic Quarter, home to various embassies, underscores its exclusive nature.

Vision 2030: A Catalyst for Change

The move to open an alcohol store, albeit with stringent controls, is seen as part of Saudi Arabia's broader Vision 2030 strategy. This ambitious plan encompasses various initiatives, from ultra-luxurious resorts along the Red Sea coast, like St. Regis, to a significant push in global football and streamlined travel processes. The introduction of alcohol, even in a limited capacity, addresses a key concern about attracting international travelers to these high-end destinations.

The Debate over Alcohol in Saudi Tourism

Discussions about alcohol's role in Saudi tourism have been ongoing. In 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported plans for a high-end beach resort serving alcohol. However, the stance on alcohol legalization within the country has seen fluctuations. Notably, at a 2022 conference in Dubai, Andrew McEvoy, then head of tourism at NEOM, suggested that alcohol was a consideration in the project. His subsequent departure and the local government's clarification against legalizing alcohol highlight the complexities surrounding this issue.

Reflecting the Kingdom's Evolving Stance

While the Saudi Press Agency clarified that McEvoy's comments did not reflect the country's plans or beliefs, the opening of this alcohol store for diplomats marks a significant, albeit cautious, step in Saudi Arabia's journey towards modernization and economic diversification. It remains a closely watched aspect of Saudi Arabia's evolving policies under its Vision 2030 program.

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