In a groundbreaking move, Saudi Arabia is preparing to open its first alcohol store exclusively for non-Muslim diplomats in the capital city of Riyadh. This marks a significant shift in the ultra-conservative Muslim country’s policies, which strictly prohibit alcohol consumption under Islamic law.
The store, located in the Diplomatic Quarter, will cater to foreign embassies and their representatives. Customers will need to register through a mobile app, obtain a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and adhere to monthly purchase quotas. While details remain unclear, it’s uncertain if other non-Muslim residents will have access.
This initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to diversify the economy away from oil dependence and attract tourism and foreign investment. Opening up the country to international influence and relaxed social norms is a key aspect of this strategy.
“It’s a milestone in the kingdom’s efforts to open up the ultra-conservative country,” commented a source familiar with the plans. The move comes after previous reforms loosening restrictions on gender segregation, public entertainment, and women’s driving rights.
However, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and Crown Prince Mohammed’s tightening grip on power raise concerns. The crackdown on dissent and political rivals casts a shadow over the country’s image amidst these significant social changes.
The new alcohol store, while limited in scope, represents a bold step for Saudi Arabia. It signifies the country’s willingness to adapt to evolving social norms and integrate with the global economy while navigating internal political dynamics and religious conservatism. The impact of this decision on Saudi society and its future trajectory remains to be seen.