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Saudi Arabia to Open First Alcohol Store

This is interesting, according to Reuters, Saudi Arabia is preparing to open its first alcohol store in Riyadh which will serve exclusively non-Muslim diplomats. The store will be located in the Diplomatic Quarter, a pretty nice neighborhood I’ve visited before, and where lots embassies and diplomats reside.

Even though this store will only be for diplomats, it’s one step closer to Saudi legalizing alcohol.

I wonder how legalizing alcohol in Saudi would affect Kuwait. Will we get alcohol if they get alcohol? Not that I care honestly, but I wouldn’t mind a Tomatini every now and then.

Update: I found another article with a bit more info..

The store sits next to a supermarket in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a socially sensitive topic in Saudi Arabia. The diplomat walked through the store on Wednesday, describing it as similar to an upscale duty free shop at a major international airport.

The store stocks liquor, wine and only two types of beer for the time being, the diplomat said. Workers at the store asked customers for their diplomatic identifications and for them to place their mobile phones inside of pouches while inside. A mobile phone app allows purchases on an allotment system, the diplomat said.

53 replies on “Saudi Arabia to Open First Alcohol Store”

There are more pressing developmental and mindset issues to resolve. We’re still trying to ‘uncancel’ the cancelled visit visas. The region is racing ahead and we’ve been going backwards since 2010.

This is super interesting. An official booze store on the land of Qaaba? Saudi is in the 11 gear while we will have 10 more years of cognitive dissonance just from this article. 🤣

Very interesting. Alcohol seems in the works for the holy land. Yes kuwait hasnt progressed since 2003 & its a shame. Kuwait was the pinnacle in the region pre 2003. Since then the UAE, Qatar & now Saudi are shining. Casinos are coming to UAE. Dont be surprised Saudi not far behind.

is censoring and banning movies a sign of progression? or by opening up and letting people decide what to watch or what they want to read a sign of progression?

We have “pop-up” alcohol stores here, with wine tasting no less. There is a subsidiary of MMI permitted to import, exclusively for the diplomatic market, and they open up regularly. Show your invite at the door and you are admitted. Taste, decide, order. Not too different to what the Saudis are doing, just a little more permanent.

Not all censorship is bad. I mean if you had kids, would you expose them to everything and let them decide or would you censor the things that go against your belief system and ideals?

We aren’t talking about kids, why do people go to extremes? Obviously minors can’t make decisions for themselves but why would you compare adults in Kuwait to children?

That’s a valid point, but my argument was that not all censorship is bad. There are many things that are deemed acceptable in the West that are not deemed acceptable here. Why should they impose their way of living onto us?

What bothers me is that the term “progression” is attached to mimicking what the Western world does, and if you don’t play by their rules or live the way they do, you are deemed unprogressive and backwards.

Certain books are also banned in Europe and the U.S. and freedom of speech is also restricted, but Arab countries are vilified when they do the same.

Man of all the years you’ve been in Kuwait Mark you’d think you would understand and appreciate the culture. Kuwait is not the United States nor Canada. If 10-20 percent of people want something does not mean that everyone wants it. I feel at times you tend to force your views on the country you’ve been living in for most if not all your life. It is against the religion, plain and simple. And I know it’s a religion you don’t follow nor it is a culture you are from and I respect that. As of now, religion is important to the majority, and I mean 90 percent of the population. Even if people drink in secret, the general consensus is that it is against the religion. Another thing is KSA is a pure dictatorship. How in the world is it progression when one person wakes up and decides it’s going to change a rule that that majority of people don’t want. I love your blog man and like I mentioned many times, I’ve been and will continue to be a reader. I just at times don’t understand why it’s sooooo hard for you to understand the place you grown up in. Kuwait is Kuwait. It is a nice middle ground. A melting pot. It even at times to be honest feels disrespectful. You are allowed to voice your opinion, I would just think you’d see the beauty of what Kuwait is. If anything I hope other countries in the gulf learn from Kuwait. It is the only country in the gulf that has a parliament. You don’t care about politics, but a countries progress is not judged by tall buildings or booze or middle beast. Wish you well.

Is blaming expats for all the countries problems or telling them to go back if they don’t like it a sign of progression?

I already live in the biggest “sin” city in the world (on the surface) so i have experience. I say on the surface because i have lived in certain middle east countries where bigger sin is being committed with the shield of religion. Im not saying casinos & alcohol are signs of progression im saying that seems to be the next phase for large scale business, tourism, land value boom, etc. Freedom of choice is what i support. If a country wants to stay closed off or open up thats up to them. If a citizen wants to live in a open market or live in a closed market thats up to them.

It’s sad that people think opening an alcohol store is moving forward and racing ahead. Implementing western culture rather than sticking to our values.

Alcohol isn’t “western culture”. The “moving forward” is when you give the decision making back to the people instead of having the country censor and make decisions for you. If you want to drink, you can, if you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to. If you want to watch Barbie, you can, if you don’t want to watch Barbie, you don’t have to.

No, its not as simple as that. The state NEEDS to decided certain things for you. Not everything is freely available everywhere and left to people to decide. Every country has their rules and regulations, including the west (the self proclaimed paragons of freedom and human rights).

I’m not saying if you want to kill you should be allowed to kill, relax, we’re talking about basic rights that are available everywhere in the world except for 4 countries.

Alcohol, drugs and pr*st!tution are considered basic rights in some countries while not in others, who is to judge? Alcohol is banned in certain states in India.. there could be many more such examples around the world, which we are not aware of.
In the US, the so called flag bearer of free speech and human rights, its illegal in certain states to criticize Israel (and not US itself!). So can we have to each their own?

If you want to highlight different villages in Bangladesh that also ban alcohol, please go ahead but that doesn’t really mean anything. Usually you aim up not down, if you’re going to compare Kuwait to some random village you’re definitely not making a strong case. Look at the top 5 most successful countries in the world and aim to be like them. You keep making it about alcohol or prostitution or gambling but that’s just a cheap shot. It’s not about the product (in this case alcohol).

For you, moving up is about copying the west in their values and touting that as success and progress. You need to open your eyes and see that countries can still progress with their own set of rules and regulations (example China). And yes, villages in Bangladesh, Lebanon and Armenia have the right to set their own rules too

Why do you think Saudi legalizing alcohol is copying the west? Alcohol existed in this region before the US existed. Alcohol isn’t even a “western” thing, every country in the world has alcohol other than Iran, Kuwait, Libya and a couple of more countries.

It’s ironic that you’re telling me to open my eyes and then referencing China as an example Kuwait should follow. Whats next, you’re going to compliment North Korea for sticking to their values and how we should be like them?

China only started to progress after ditching communism and embracing western capitalism.

India banning alcohol isn’t something that one should replicate around the world. I highly doubt there is anyone talking about human rights / freedom of choice / etc. using India in this context and giving them a free pass on thier prohibitions.

Same goes for US states inhibiting free speech. It’s widely criticized. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/20/us/arkansas-thrall-bds-antisemitism.html
(before you pounce on me and say “THATS A LEFT WING NEWS ORG SO iT DOESNT COUNT” well every news entity would have some bias point is that that news media organisation can call out on it).

So. Neither US nor India gets a free pass on their stifling of freedom.

Want another example, Canadian courts actually stated that the measures used to stifle pro-convoy protests were against the law and Human rights. Despite it being quite against the desires of the government in power. As you can see, Canada did something far from perfect in terms of personal freedoms but doesnt get a free pass and has been sanctioned.

You say “give the decision making back to the people instead of having the country censor and make decisions for you” But isn’t opening this alcohol store also a decision imposed by the country?

If there was a referendum in Saudi Arabia about opening an alcohol store, I believe the majority would vote against it.

Your comment is logical and on point. Unfortunately, in some cases, majority does not / must not always win. And some times, we must allow for progressiveness through ‘sinful products’ (in this case) because… let’s face it – There is no denying the amount of revenue and ecosystem development it could bring into the country. Alcohol is a factor.

And when that person decides to drink, and ends up driving drunk, or sexually assaulting someone, or violently attacking someone, or becoming an addict… who will be happy that they were allowed to choose to drink?

There are 0 benefits to alcohol so I say well done to Kuwait for not buckling on this one.

Because your “values” will not help kuwait to host the World Cup, or the Olympics, or any major international event, or become a tourist destination or become an international center in anything.

I’d love to see how your values will generate enough income for paying your wages and generate jobs for the 100s of thousand of graduates in the next few decades.

Values: a set of ideas and practices invented by people who are now dead, but are still blindly followed by living people because they were told to do so by their parents.

You’d be surprised how many people see this as a breath of fresh air.

Besides, tourism is terrible as a source of economic prosperity. We can focus on investments and big industries and dubai can have the westerners that want a camel ride.

And why not focus on both? A friendly and touristy place is also attractive for investment and business.

Traditionalists are unable to comprehend how important leisure is for attracting a skilled work force. They also fail to comprehend how insignificant Kuwait is, and that without an open culture, not a lot of important people will care to come here.

Traditionalists also fail to comprehend that an open culture is not “Western”. It is also East Asian and South Asian and African and South American.

Legalising alcohol should not be a metric for societal progress. Minimum wages and fair legal representation for the blue collared as well as property ownership by foreigners, controlled migration for highly skilled professionals and press freedoms and banning censorship and dissent could be some key pegs on which to measure progress and development. On most of these counts, they have fared ominously.
On that note, please pass me my Mimosa, Mark!

I agree that Booze has nothing to do with Progress, but at the same time Booze is not as dangerous as many other things we think is also a fact that many has to digest. Aren’t there accidents in Countries who have banned booze? arent people high inspite of booze not even available. isnt there cancer without booze . So basically its time to focus much serious things in life is the signal here. People who dont drink things they dont have any other bad habits.
I still wish that booze shouldnt be legalized in kuwait. Without booze itself you get honked and hit by speedy and impatient drivers here, so imagine if it was legalized. plus all those who want to booze, could freely go to the other parts of the world and do as much as one could.
Keep Kuwait spirit free.

im wondering if the posters here responding to ‘legalizing booze in saudi’ read the post well enough to see that it is for diplomats only????
diplomats are not bound by the laws in the countries for which they serve. many diplomats in kuwait are given an ‘alcohol allowance’ a portion of free booze monthly to aid in their diplomatic social functions – FACT

the discussion here is about the future, when Saudi does legalize alcohol and what it would mean for Kuwait. It’s not just about this first step of opening a liquor store just for diplomats.

I will never understand why people are so obsessed with alcohol. I understand wanting other things in the Middle East like unbanning movies, music etc
But I work in the UK and all people do is talk about alcohol- they have no hobbies, interests . They just talk about alcohol and talk about how they wish they could not drink it. 80% of patients have underlying liver disease or upper GI bleeding. There is literally no benefit drinking alcohol.
Even if they don’t, they can’t get transplants because of drinking. I will never understand the obsession with legalising or even trying it in the first place

The amount of people who want alcohol in Kuwait is actually scary. It just goes to show how people expect Kuwait to fit in (or how they feel they need alcohol to enjoy life/fit in). The whole reason we are a different country is because we have rules for what’s best for people. If you want alcohol you can go to a neighbouring country and get it easily. You want to start increasing accidents and diseases and social issues jusy so you can have a drink?? Seriously

Woah woah… accidents arent already a thing in Kuwait? Social issues arent already a thing? What diseases can you get if someone down the street from you drinks alcohol?

Sorry but if you want Kuwait to stay as it is then good for you…. some people want Kuwait to progress a bit further, and that SHOULD include tourism… and lets face it, alcohol is a big driver (and I don’t mean *alcohol* as a standalone product…)

This speaks to a rare kind of permissiveness and liberty not seen or heard of before in the kingdom similar to what they did with granting women license to drive and to appear in public without the veil. Those are huge milestones for their country and for women’s status in society, in particular. Alcohol is a business move to woo investors and for PR as part of its effort to polish its horrendous image abroad for future MICE and sporting event engagements in the country. No, I don’t think Kuwait will follow suit. The black market for Scottish malt is too powerful here to allow for a course correction.

God forbid.

Kuwait is a moderately conservative country and the overwhelming majority of people won’t allow this to happen here. Some official denied the story for the KSA yesterday I think.

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