In a notable departure from its longstanding prohibition on alcohol, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reportedly contemplating allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages to non-Muslim diplomats. This potential shift marks a significant change as, until now, diplomats had to import alcohol into the country using diplomatic pouches.
Saudi Arabia’s strict ban on alcohol dates back to 1952, a measure implemented following an incident in which a British diplomat was allegedly shot by one of King Abdulaziz’s sons during a drunken episode. However, recent years have seen speculations and rumors regarding the possible relaxation of such restrictions, particularly with the introduction of social reforms under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 agenda.
While the sources indicate that alcohol may soon be available to a certain percentage of individuals, these claims remain speculative until an official announcement is made by the Saudi Arabian authorities.
A statement from the Saudi government on Wednesday revealed plans for a new regulatory framework aimed at countering the illicit trade of alcohol products received by diplomatic missions. The new process is designed to allocate specific quantities of alcohol goods upon entry into the Kingdom, addressing the previously unregulated process that led to an uncontrolled exchange of such goods within the country.
The existing regulations in Saudi Arabia severely limit options for the majority of the country’s 32 million inhabitants to consume alcohol. Beyond attending official events, individuals have resorted to producing their own wine or turning to the underground market, where the prices of whiskey bottles can soar, especially during occasions like New Year’s Eve.
The potential easing of restrictions would offer a notable shift in the traditionally conservative stance of the country. However, it’s essential to await an official announcement from Saudi authorities to confirm the details of any changes to the alcohol regulations.
Saudi legislation currently imposes various penalties on individuals found consuming or possessing alcohol, including fines, imprisonment, public flogging, and deportation for non-nationals.