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Saudi Arabia to Open First Alcohol Store for Non-Muslim Diplomats in Riyadh

RIYADH, Historic Step in the Kingdom: In a groundbreaking move, Saudi Arabia is set to open its first alcohol store in Riyadh. This store, a significant shift in policy, will exclusively serve non-Muslim diplomats. This development is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious Vision 2030 initiative, aimed at transforming the ultra-conservative Muslim country into a hub for tourism and business.

A Controlled and Regulated Approach: To access the store, customers must register through a mobile app and receive a clearance code from the foreign ministry. Additionally, they will need to adhere to monthly purchase quotas. This regulated approach underscores the kingdom's cautious yet progressive stance on alcohol, which remains forbidden in Islam.

Strategic Location in Diplomatic Quarter: The store is strategically located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter, home to embassies and diplomats. Its access will be "strictly restricted" to non-Muslims, ensuring adherence to religious norms while catering to the diplomatic community.

Unclear Access for Other Non-Muslim Expatriates: With millions of expatriates in Saudi Arabia, mainly Muslim workers from Asia and Egypt, it remains unclear if other non-Muslim expatriates will have access to the store.

Expected Opening and Strict Laws: The store is expected to open in the coming weeks. It's important to note that Saudi Arabia has stringent laws against alcohol consumption, with penalties including lashes, deportation, fines, or imprisonment. However, recent reforms have seen a shift from whipping to jail sentences, reflecting the country's evolving legal landscape.

New Regulations for Diplomatic Consignments: In response to the illicit trade of alcohol, the government confirmed new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic consignments. The Center of International Communication (CIC) stated that this process ensures diplomats' access to alcohol within specified quotas, respecting international diplomatic conventions.

Saudi Arabia's Social Reforms: These changes are part of a series of social reforms in Saudi Arabia, which have seen the relaxation of strict social codes, such as gender segregation in public places and dress codes for women. These reforms, alongside Prince Mohammed's efforts to open the country for non-religious tourism and other social liberties, signify a new era in the kingdom.

Vision 2030: Beyond Oil: Vision 2030 encompasses more than social changes; it aims to develop local industries, and logistics hubs, and create jobs for Saudi nationals, steering the economy towards a post-oil future.

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