By Lucy Adautin
Saudi Arabia is set to introduce its inaugural alcohol store in Riyadh, exclusively catering for non-Muslim diplomats as part of the broader Vision 2030 initiative to diversify the economy beyond oil.
To access the store, customers must register via a mobile app, obtain clearance from the foreign ministry, and adhere to monthly purchase quotas.
This step, championed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, signifies the nation’s commitment to opening up for tourism and business, aligning with efforts to establish a post-oil economy as the store, situated in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, will be strictly limited to non-Muslims.
While it remains uncertain if other non-Muslim expatriates will have access, the forthcoming opening, expected in the coming weeks, reflects Saudi Arabia’s shift in approach to alcohol availability.
Previously restricted to diplomatic channels or the black market due to strict laws against alcohol consumption, these new regulations aim to counter illicit alcohol trade and products received by diplomatic missions, as communicated by the Center of International Communication (CIC).
“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.
Saudi Arabia, which was relatively closed off for decades, has in recent years relaxed strict social codes, such as segregating men and women in public places and requiring women to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas as the new framework respected international diplomatic conventions
Prince Mohammed’s firm grip on power has accompanied changes which included opening the country for non-religious tourism, concerts and allowing women to drive, as well as a crackdown on dissent and political rivals.
Vision 2030 includes developing local industries and logistics hubs, and aims at adding hundreds of thousands of jobs for Saudi nationals.