Saudi Arabia opens first liquor store – media

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The shop is located in the capital Riyadh and will serve only non-Muslim diplomats

Saudi Arabia has opened its first liquor store in over 70 years, several news outlets reported on Wednesday, citing diplomats. The store is reportedly located in the Diplomatic Quarter in the capital of Riyadh.

The shop will exclusively serve non-Muslim diplomats, who will be required to register to buy alcohol in advance via a mobile app and get a clearance code from the Foreign Ministry, according to a document cited by Reuters. Monthly limits for liquor purchases will also be in place. It is unclear if non-Muslim expatriates outside of diplomatic circles will have access to the store.

Local residents, however, will not be served, and the alcohol ban that has been in place since 1951 in Saudi Arabia is not being rescinded.

Meanwhile, Riyadh on Wednesday confirmed earlier reports that it is preparing new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic circles. According to the Center of International Communication (CIC), the new laws aim to combat the black-market liquor trade.

“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. CIC did not mention the new store in its statement, however.

The opening of a liquor shop is among the latest measures taken under a wider strategy known as Vision 2030 that seeks to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, boost its standing in the world, and introduce a degree of social liberalization. Under this policy, in recent years the country has allowed non-religious tourism and concerts, lifted restrictions on women to drive cars, relaxed segregation of men and women in public places and waived requirements for women to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas, among other measures.

Saudi Arabia is not the only nation that has an alcohol ban. Others include Kuwait, Iran, the UAE, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar, and several other Muslim-majority countries, though most of them allow non-citizens and non-Muslims to buy and consume liquor.

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