Saudi Arabia Allows Alcohol Sales to Foreign Diplomats for the First Time

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: January 25, 2024; 17:26 ♦ (Vindobona)

In a significant change to its long-standing policy, Saudi Arabia has decided to allow the public sale of alcohol to "non-Muslim diplomats". This marks a historic departure from the country's strict alcohol ban.

Saudi Arabia plans to open a new store in Riyadh's diplomatic quarter, allowing non-Muslim diplomats to purchase alcohol after a decades-long nationwide ban. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons; Ahmed, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED (

According to a report in the Financial Times, a new store will open in the diplomatic quarter of the capital Riyadh. Access to this store is to be reserved exclusively for registered, non-Muslim diplomats. Every month, they will be allowed to buy up to 40 liters of spirits, 80 liters of wine, or 240 liters of beer.

A step towards stricter regulation

The opening of the store is aimed at more strictly regulating the purchase and consumption of alcohol by diplomats and their guests in the Kingdom. Until now, diplomats have been able to import alcohol from their sending countries, carry it in their diplomatic baggage, and also buy it in stores in their embassies. In addition, the consumption of alcohol at diplomatic receptions was common and a black market existed.

So far, there has been no official confirmation from the Saudi authorities or government regarding this innovation, as reportd by ORF. However, the introduction of alcohol sales could be an indication of Saudi Arabia's efforts to regulate alcohol consumption in the country under stricter conditions.

Background to the decision

This decision follows speculation as to whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would allow exceptions to the alcohol ban to develop the country as a regional center of trade, finance, and tourism. Tourism is part of the crown prince's economic diversification plan, which aims to boost non-oil-related business in the world's largest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia's decision to allow alcohol sales to foreign diplomats is an important step in the country's alignment with international norms and could be a sign of further social and economic reform in the Kingdom.