RIYADH – In a significant development hailed and criticized equally, Saudi Arabia is poised to introduce its first liquor store within the next few weeks.
This historic decision, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, marks a significant shift in the kingdom’s longstanding prohibition stance on alcohol, which has been strictly enforced since its ban in 1952 due to Islamic injunctions.
The liquor store is situated in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter and is set to exclusively cater to diplomats. To purchase alcohol, authorized individuals, must utilize a specially designed app named “Diplo.” This digital platform will ensure a streamlined process, with strict guidelines in place to maintain adherence to religious and cultural sensitivities.
Approved diplomats entering the store will face stringent regulations, including a prohibition on bringing guests or individuals under the age of 21. Photography within the premises is strictly prohibited, and visitors will be required to secure their mobile phones in designated pouches during their shopping experience.
Furthermore, a monthly quota will be applied to each registered diplomat, preventing excessive purchases and reports say that it would be 240 “points” of alcohol per month.
Saudi Arabia claims that the store is being opened to curb the illicit trade of alcohol through this regulated initiative, particularly those received by diplomatic missions. The Saudi government emphasizes that this controlled approach will replace the previous unregulated process, which led to an uncontrolled exchange of alcohol products within the kingdom.
In a remarkable turn of events, Saudi Arabia is making headlines not just for its groundbreaking move to open its first-ever diplomatic liquor store but also for a positive shift in its global standing in the Henley Passport Index 2024. Despite its traditionally less strong passport, Saudi Arabia has climbed to the 61st spot in the latest rankings.
The Kingdom’s passport now provides its citizens with access to 89 visa-free destinations, showcasing an improvement in global mobility. This upward trajectory comes amidst the nation’s commitment to various reforms under the Vision 2030 initiative, aiming to diversify and strengthen the economy.
Saudi Arabia, a Middle Eastern nation, is known for its rich cultural heritage and Islamic landmarks. With a population exceeding 34 million, key destinations include the capital Riyadh, the vibrant coastal city Jeddah, and the historic city of Mecca, home to the Islamic holy site Kaaba.