Tel Aviv (AP): A liquor store has opened in Saudi Arabia for the first time in over 70 years, a diplomat reported Wednesday, a further socially liberalizing step in the once-ultraconservative kingdom that is home to the holiest sites in Islam.
While restricted to non-Muslim diplomats, the store in Riyadh comes as Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to make the kingdom a tourism and business destination as part of ambitious plans to slowly wean its economy away from crude oil.
However, challenges remain both from the prince’s international reputation after the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as well as internally with the conservative Islamic mores that have governed its sandy expanses for decades.
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. Diplomats walked through the store Wednesday, describing it as similar to an upscale duty-free shop at a major international airport.