Headline RoundupJanuary 28th, 2024

Saudi Arabia Opens First Liquor Store Since Banning Alcohol in 1952

Summary from the AllSides News Team

Last week, Saudi Arabia opened its first liquor store in Riyadh, primarily targeted at non-Muslim diplomats.

The Details: The move comes as an effort to curb alcohol smuggling and its resulting black market. The store is located in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, and will only sell to non-Muslims over 21, which will be approved by the Saudi Foreign Ministry through an app called Diplo.

For Context: Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and has been banned in Saudi Arabia since 1952 when an intoxicated Saudi prince murdered a British diplomat. Foreign embassies are currently allowed to import alcohol into the country under certain agreements, but also reportedly smuggle it in via “diplomatic pouches” that the Saudi government cannot inspect. The store’s opening also contributes to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 project, in which the Saudi government seeks to liberalize the nation, with hopes of becoming a more desirable tourist destination. 

Key Quotes: In a statement on Wednesday, the Saudi government said the new regulatory framework was an effort to “counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions.” An unnamed Saudi investor said, “Everyone knows which embassies sell booze … some of them have made a whole side business out of it… The government had to do something.”

How the Media Covered It: Outlets across the spectrum highlighted Vision 2030 and the alcohol smuggling problem. CNBC (Center bias) included original reporting on the black market prices of some brand-name liquors. Time Magazine (Lean Left bias) added context on the kingdom’s liberalization.

This summary was developed with the help of AllSides' AI technology.

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