Saudi prepares to open first alcohol store for non-Muslim diplomats, says source

Customers will have to register via a mobile app, get a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and respect monthly quotas with their purchases, says document

By Reuters

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Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 6:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 11:34 PM

Saudi Arabia is preparing to open its first alcohol store in the capital Riyadh which will serve exclusively non-Muslim diplomats, according to a source familiar with the plans and a document.

Customers will have to register via a mobile app, get a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and respect monthly quotas with their purchases, said the document, which was seen by Reuters.

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The move is a milestone in the kingdom's efforts, led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to open the country for tourism and business.

It is also part of wider plans known as Vision 2030 to build a post-oil economy.

The new store is located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter, a neighbourhood where embassies and diplomats reside, and will be "strictly restricted" to non-Muslims, the document said.

It was unclear if other non-Muslim expatriates will have access to the store. Millions of expatriates live in Saudi Arabia but most of them are Muslim workers from Asia and Egypt.

A source familiar with the plans said the store is expected to open in the coming weeks.

Saudi Arabia has strict laws against drinking alcohol which can be punishable by hundreds of lashes, deportation, fines, or imprisonment and expatriates also face deportation. As part of the reforms, whipping has largely been replaced by jail sentences.

The government on Wednesday confirmed reports in state-controlled media that it was imposing new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic consignments.

Its Centre of International Communication (CIC) said the new regulations had been introduced to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions.

"This new process will continue to grant and ensure that all diplomats of non-Muslim embassies have access to these products in specified quotas," the CIC said in a statement to Reuters.

The statement did not address the planned alcohol store but said the new framework respected international diplomatic conventions.

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