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Saudi Arabia is Set To Open its first alcohol shop in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia is set to open its first alcohol shop in Riyadh, marking a significant departure from its 70-year prohibition on alcohol sales. The shop, located in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, will exclusively serve non-Muslim expatriates, particularly diplomatic staff. This move aims to combat the illicit trade of alcohol, which has persisted despite the longstanding ban.

The decision to open the alcohol shop comes as part of Saudi Arabia’s broader efforts to modernize and liberalize its society under the Vision 2030 initiative spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. While alcohol has been strictly prohibited in the kingdom since 1952, exceptions have been made for diplomatic personnel who could import limited quantities in sealed diplomatic pouches.

The new shop will impose restrictions on the amount of alcohol patrons can purchase, with a monthly limit of 240 “points.” Different alcoholic beverages will be assigned varying point values, with spirits, wine, and beer each allotted a specific number of points per liter. These measures aim to regulate alcohol consumption and prevent excessive drinking.

Despite this liberalization, Saudi Arabia’s approach to alcohol remains conservative compared to other Gulf states like the UAE and Qatar, which permit the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims in designated venues such as hotels, clubs, and bars. The Saudi government has not indicated any intention to adopt a similar policy.

The decision to open the alcohol shop follows a historical incident in 1951 when Mishari bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a Saudi prince, fatally shot a British diplomat in Jeddah during a drunken altercation. This event led to the imposition of a complete alcohol ban by King Abdulaziz the following year.

In addition to the alcohol shop, Saudi authorities are planning a new regulatory framework to control the importation of alcohol by diplomats, aiming to curb the uncontrolled exchange of alcoholic goods. These initiatives reflect the evolving social and economic landscape of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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