MIDDLE EAST –  Saudi Arabia has ruled out the sale of alcohol in the Kingdom’s duty-free markets in airports, seaports, and land ports to the disappointment of many who had warmed up to the prospect.

It was reported last year that the Kingdom had considered the sale of alcohol in duty free areas of selected airports, but the idea has been quashed by Saudi’s tax and customs authority (Zakat).

As per a statement on Zakat’s website, only products that are permitted to be traded in the Kingdom can be sold at duty-free shops across air, sea, and land ports.

This effectively excludes Alcohol which remains prohibited in the Kingdom, which has operated within the bounds of a strict interpretation of Islamic norms, since its founding in 1932.

Prohibition is said to be particularly strict in the kingdom when compared to other Islamic states such as Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar, the emirate of Sharjah, and since 2017 Iraq, where alcohol sales are also banned.

The United Arab Emirates is however an outlier in the middle east with its regulations allowing some form of alcohol regulation for much of the past decade.

In 2020, a new era dawned for the nation with significant legal reforms allowing for more easy access to and consumption of alcohol.

Previously, people needed to hold a license to be allowed to consume, buy, sell or transport alcohol even if above the legal age.

This requirement was done away with in the 2020 law amendment and people can today enjoy alcoholic beverages in authorized areas without the fear of prosecution.

Sales rise in Dubai

However, only those over 21 are legally permitted to drink and alcohol is only be allowed to be consumed privately or in licensed public areas.

In 2023, the Dubai Municipality has suspended the 30 percent tax on the sale of alcohol in the emirate for one year, further creating more opportunities for the residents to drink.

Confirmation of the move has been sent to industry players, and alcohol companies have already started to contact their customers advising them of the change coming into effect from Sunday January 1.

The Dubai government expects the saving to be passed from venues to customers, making the city a more affordable place to visit in 2023 and also putting it in line with the cost of alcohol in other emirates.

The changes have had a significant impact with some of the leading alcoholic beverages distribution organizations in Dubai confirming that they have noticed an increase in their sales on New Year’s Day.

“After the news the footfall has really increased in our shop,” said a call centre staff at African + Eastern in an interview with Zawya.

“We are seeing a lot of customers coming in since morning, especially as it’s a Sunday, January 1, and many people are off.”

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