Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Politics
Checkout

Saudis Wonder If Another Big Taboo Is About to End

The government isn’t saying anything, but talk is rife that the kingdom may seek to legalize alcohol. 

A sports bar that serves non-alcoholic drinks in Riyadh.

A sports bar that serves non-alcoholic drinks in Riyadh.

Photographer: Tasneem Alsultan/Bloomberg
Updated on

The lights are dim and the game is on loud at a sports bar in downtown Riyadh. Women perched on bar stools sip blueberry mojitos in front of wall-to-wall screens, erupting in cheers when their soccer team scores.

This being Saudi Arabia, of course there’s one thing missing: alcohol. The drinks are virgin because the country bans booze. But as the kingdom goes through an intoxicating social transformation, Saudis are now starting to wonder—some with excitement, many with concern—if another hallmark of their country’s strict interpretation of Islam might start to disappear.