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Saudi to Open a Store Selling Alcohol to Diplomats

RIYADH: Saudi to open a store selling alcohol to diplomatsRIYADH: Saudi Arabia intends to ease its stringent laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to non-Muslim diplomats for the first time, two people familiar with the proposal told AFP on Wednesday. According to one of the sources, alcohol “will be sold to non-Muslim diplomats,” who previously had to import it through a diplomatic pouch, or sealed official package.

According to a document seen by AFP, the sales will take place in a store in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, an area west of the city center that is home to foreign missions and residential buildings. According to the document, monthly quotas will be enforced and access to the store will be limited to users who register on the Diplo App. Prohibition.

For years, speculation has been rife that alcohol would be made available in the Gulf state as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 agenda, which also includes the opening of theaters and festivals featuring a mixed-gender lineup.”A new regulatory framework… to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions,” the Saudi government said in a statement on Wednesday.

“To put an end to the previous unregulated process that caused an uncontrolled exchange of such goods in the kingdom,” the statement continued, “the new process will focus on allocating specific quantities of alcohol goods when entering the kingdom.” According to the policy, “all diplomats of non-Muslim embassies will continue to be granted and ensured access to these products in specified quotas.” The document seen by AFP states that entry to the store in the Diplomatic Quarter “is strictly restricted to non-Muslims.”

It states that “appropriate attire is required” and that “no persons under the age of 21 are allowed inside the store.” It states that those who register with the app cannot send friends, family, helpers, or coworkers in their place. It is not permitted to use cell phones in the store. Those with permission to enter the store will be able to buy 240 “points” of alcohol each month under the quota system. One point is awarded for a liter of beer, three points are awarded for a liter of wine, and six points are awarded for a liter of spirits.

According to the Saudi government statement, most of Saudi Arabia’s 32 million citizens, who have few options for imbibing unless they are willing to travel abroad, would not see significant changes anytime soon.The goal of Vision 2030 is to establish a business, tourism, and sports hub in the largest crude exporter in the world, thereby providing the foundation for a post-oil economy. The announcement on Wednesday coincides with Saudi Arabia’s growing competition for foreign investment and tourism dollars from its neighbors, particularly Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

For instance, authorities this month enforced a regulation mandating that international companies establish regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia or risk losing out on government contracts.In Dubai, alcohol is served in a wide variety of eateries, bars, and hotels. In neighboring Qatar, non-Muslims who are at least 21 years old can get alcohol from hotels and restaurants with a license. The World Cup in 2034 and Expo 2030 were awarded to Saudi Arabia last year, which added credence to the rumors that the alcohol ban might be eased or at least weakened with exceptions made for megacities like the $500 billion NEOM.

However, because alcohol is prohibited in Islam, the matter is still very sensitive in the nation that is home to the holy sites of the religion, which are the cities of Makkah and Madinah. Alcohol use or possession is punishable by Saudi law by fines, jail time, public flogging, and deportation for undocumented foreigners. Until Wednesday, Saudi authorities had rejected any proposals for a significant shift in the country’s policies. When directly questioned about the matter in 2022 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, deputy tourism minister Princess Haifa Al-Saud replied, “The short answer is, we are going to continue with our current laws.” AFP

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