Saudi Arabia’s First Liquor Store Opens In 70 Years

The first liquor store to open in Saudi Arabia in 70 years just debuted in the diplomatic quarter of the capital city of Riyadh late last month after the Mideast kingdom recently loosened its rules prohibiting alcohol, two sources told CNBC.

“It’s a baby step to opening up alcohol sales to non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia eventually, to hotels and other venues,” said a consultant close to the Saudi court, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic in the strictly conservative Muslim nation. Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam by the Quran.

The Saudi government has yet to confirm the news, but it marks a breakthrough in the highly conservative Muslim kingdom, which governs according to religious and civil law. The Gulf kingdom only recently allowed women to get driver’s licenses to operate an automobile on public roads. Saudi Arabia first prohibited alcohol legally in 1952.

CNBC says there are several rules for the store, such as no guests or anyone under the age of 21 are allowed inside the store with authorized visitors. Photography is not allowed and mobile phones are taken and placed in “mobile pouches” to ensure guests do not take any photos in the store. Only non-Muslim diplomats are allowed to use the store.

For some years now, rumors have flown that Saudi Arabia would soon permit the purchase and consumption of alcohol near foreign embassies as part of a broader effort to modernize Saudi society and attract more international tourism and expats to live there.

The Saudi Arabian Center of International Communication told CNN last month that a “new process will focus on allocating specific quantities of alcohol goods when entering the Kingdom to put an end to the previous unregulated process that caused an uncontrolled exchange of such goods in the Kingdom.”

Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2017, the Persian Gulf nation has embarked on a series of reforms to liberalize its policies and image. Movie theaters and concerts are now allowed in Saudi Arabia, which previously banned them there for decades.

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