Daily Management Review

First Alcohol Store Opens In Saudi Arabia As The Country Attempts To Stop The Longtime Issue Of Booze Smuggling


First Alcohol Store Opens In Saudi Arabia As The Country Attempts To Stop The Longtime Issue Of Booze Smuggling
Open only to non-Muslim diplomats, the first alcohol store in Saudi Arabia has been opened in the country's capital, Riyadh.
It may only impact a small number of people, but it is a significant shift for the deeply conservative Muslim nation, where alcohol has been outlawed since 1952 in response to the murder of a British envoy by a Saudi royal in a fit of rage. Islam forbids alcohol consumption as well, and the majority of Saudi Arabia's population follows their religion to the letter.
Over the years, alcohol has continued to enter the kingdom despite this; it just happens behind closed doors.
Under some accords with the Saudi government, foreign embassies are permitted to import alcohol; nonetheless, some have secretly brought alcohol into the country in safe "diplomatic pouches" that are impenetrable.
From there, locals and foreigners living in the nation claim that bottles are frequently sold at enormous markups on the underground market. The individuals who communicated with the media was given anonymity since the subject matter is delicate.
“Everyone knows which embassies sell booze … some of them have made a whole side business out of it, selling on the black market at four, five, even ten times the normal price. It’s gotten ridiculous. The government had to do something,” one Saudi investor based between Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Riyadh said.
According to insiders, a single bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label sells for between $1,000 and $2,000 on the underground market, whereas a one-liter bottle of vodka usually costs between $500 and $600. According to foreigners who have lived in the country for several decades, people have also been manufacturing alcohol at home.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom Tower, run by Kingdom Holding Co., centre, is visible above the King Fahd highway.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom Tower, run by Kingdom Holding Co., centre, is visible above the King Fahd highway.
According to a Saudi expert, the purpose of the new tracked purchase system is "to deal with the smuggling problem that we've always had with diplomats."
Another Saudi business owner based in the kingdom’s eastern Khobar region said: “The government learned that a lot of alcohol is moving from the allocated quantities allowed for embassies to the black market. … Now this app is put in place where they will be getting their allocated quantity with monitoring from a centralized place.”
The Centre of International Communication in Saudi Arabia stated in a statement that it was quoting alcohol to diplomatic missions in order to "counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods." CNN reported this confirmation from the Saudi government.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry and CIC did not provide any comments on the matter.
Foreigners have frequently gone to great efforts to bring alcohol into the kingdom of the dry; one former British diplomat recalled being told, 'Sir, your couch is leaking', by a business carrying his furniture, while another related how they were given bottles of whisky to keep inside an imported grand piano.
Those found to be using or selling alcohol face harsh punishments in Saudi Arabia, which can include jail time, deportation, fines, and even lashing.
Even yet, a lot of people in the country believe that it won't be long until alcohol is allowed outside of diplomatic settings; nonetheless, it probably won't apply to Muslims and will only be allowed in hotels or special economic zones. Many upscale eateries in Jeddah and Riyadh already have fully functional bars that are used to create complex nonalcoholic mocktails.
The kingdom has experienced significant social and economic transformation since the ascension of the youthful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is currently the de facto ruler, to power.
His multitrillion-dollar Vision 2030 programme aims to diversify the Gulf nation's economy away from oil, boost tourism, and change the country's image. Additionally, it seeks to generate new employment for the rapidly expanding Saudi young population, of which 70% are under 30.
Since Crown Prince Mohammed took office, the country has seen a number of liberalising changes put into place that have allowed previously forbidden activities including women driving, movie theatres, and music festivals.
However, alcohol has long been frowned upon in Saudi Arabia; although the government hopes to modernise the nation and attract more international investment and tourists, it also has a duty to avoid upsetting the nation's predominantly intensely religious populace.