Saudi Arabia has said it will open a shop in Riyadh which sells alcohol to select non-Muslim expats. This will be the first alcohol shop to open in the kingdom in more than 70 years. The customers will be limited to diplomatic staff, who have always imported alcohol in sealed official packages called diplomatic pouches. Saudi officials believe the shop will reduce “the illegal trade of alcohol”. Alcohol prohibition has been a part of the law since 1952, when one of King Abdulaziz’s sons drunkenly shot dead a British diplomat.
Two Saudi men in their 30s said they were concerned about what the sale of alcohol would mean for the kingdom’s principles. “It’s not who we are,” one of them said. “It’s not that I have, like, some kind of judgment towards people who drink. No, absolutely not. But having something that is out there affects the culture and the community.” He added: “Let’s say if I have a younger sibling, if alcohol is out there, there is a possibility that he will become an alcoholic.”
Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a business, sports, and tourism hub, attracting more foreigners. Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute said that allowing alcohol “in stages” would facilitate this transition, highlighting the importance of attracting foreign investment in Saudi Arabia.