Drinking alcohol is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, public whipping and expulsion from the territory of the kingdom for foreigners
Saudi Arabia to allow non-Muslim diplomats to sell alcohol for first timetwo well-informed sources who asked not to be named told AFP today.
The alcohol “will be sold to non-Muslim diplomats” who could only get it through the “diplomatic bag” until now, one of the sources said.
The first alcohol outlet is set to open in the capital Riyadh, catering exclusively to non-Muslim diplomats.
Consumers will have to register through a mobile app, get an approval code from the State Department and adhere to monthly quotas on their purchases, according to the document seen by Reuters.
The measure in question is one landmark in efforts by the kingdom, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to open the ultraconservative country to tourism and business.
Drinking or possessing alcohol is prohibited by Islam and this prohibition is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia. It is punishable by fine, imprisonment, public whipping and banishment from the territory of the kingdom for foreigners.
The kingdom’s recent social reforms (such as the presence of men and women at concerts or the opening of movie theaters) and the planned hosting of major events such as Expo 2030 or the Soccer World Cup in 2034 are fueling rumors of a possible lifting of restrictions for alcohol, at least in certain areas, although authorities rule out any change at present.
A Saudi government announcement said today that authorities have introduced “a new regulatory framework to combat illegal trade in goods and alcoholic products received through diplomatic missions.”
The new program will allow “the distribution of specific quantities of alcoholic products upon entry into the kingdom.” It aims to put an end to an “unregulated” process that gave rise to an uncontrolled buying and selling of these products within the kingdom.”
Although alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia, alcoholic beverages are served at foreign missions in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, and some residents make their own wine. Others turn to the black market, where the price of a bottle of whiskey can rise to several hundred dollars on New Year’s Eve.
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