Saudi Arabia reportedly will begin to allow the circulation of alcoholic beverages. A wine, cocktail, and champagne bar will reportedly open at a beach resort in the futuristic megacity of Neom next year.
This was first reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which has looked at city development documents dated January.
According to the document, a premium wine bar, cocktail bar, and champagne and dessert bar will be part of the Red Sea island called Sindalah, which will open next year. The plan will also call for retail wine shops with striking vertical wall displays.
In general, the consumption, import, brewing, and sale of alcohol are strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Violators of this rule will be punished with fines up to long imprisonment and flogging.
The allegation of legalizing alcohol in Neom was further reinforced by a plan drawing of the beach resort island showing cocktails being poured in front of what appeared to be bottles of vodka, whiskey, and wine. In addition to alcohol, other images of the beach resort island Sindalah dated June also include women in bikinis and shirtless men in yachts and swimming pools.
Until now, Neom’s representatives have not confirmed the alcohol licensing. King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud also has not responded to this issue.
Previously, the issue of alcohol licensing in Saudi Arabia had been circulating since May. At the time, the Saudi government denied reports that Neom would have its special status similar to a “country within a country”, where alcohol consumption would be permitted.
On the other hand, Neom’s head of tourism, Andrew McEvoy, said that the project law would align with the target of attracting foreigners to work and live in the region. McEvoy suggested that the allowance of alcohol was not off the table.
The Saudi Arabian government later denied some of McEvoy’s comments. Instead, Saudi authorities affirmed that the residents of Neom would be subject to the sovereignty of the Kingdom but would have its own economic legislation.
As home to Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia certainly wants to portray itself as an example of Muslim morality. However, allowing alcohol, strictly forbidden in the Holy Quran, can cause a backlash among Saudi Arabian people and the wider Muslim world.