The Daily Telegraph

Wine and cocktails to tempt tourists to new Saudi resort

- By James Rothwell MIDDLE EAST CORRESPOND­ENT

SAUDI ARABIA is reportedly planning to serve alcohol at a beach resort in its £400billion megacity Neom, in what would be a first for the conservati­ve Kingdom.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, a premium wine bar, cocktail bar and a “champagne and desserts” selection will be on offer at the resort, on an island in the Red Sea. Consuming, brewing or selling alcohol is illegal in the Kingdom, and those who fall foul of the draconian rules can face heavy fines, imprisonme­nt or up to 500 lashes.

The resort is part of the Neon megacity complex, which abuts the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

There are hopes that the sale of alcohol on the island will provoke less ire among pious citizens than if it were available on the mainland, The Wall Street Journal reported. The paper said it had seen publicity images for the resort, which showed cocktails being poured next to bottles of spirits, while some adverts featured women in bikinis and shirtless men on beaches.

The resort “will ignite the Red Sea as a new destinatio­n for superyacht­s and attract some of the world’s most affluent and influentia­l people”, according to the publicity material. The relaxed drinking rules appear to apply only to Neom, rather than nationwide, with the city reportedly subject to its own unique economic legislatio­n.

Foreign workers have said access to alcohol would have an impact on whether or not they chose to move to Neom in polling.

Neom, the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has been billed as a lavish, futuristic project with flying cars, robot dinosaurs and a huge artificial moon. One area of the city, called The Line, forms the shape of a 100-mile-long belt. Another part of the city is proposed to float on water.

But the project has been mired in controvers­y as the constructi­on site is based on land claimed by the Howeitat tribe, who say they have been forcibly displaced. In April 2020 a member of the tribe, Abdul-rahim al-howeiti, was shot dead by Saudi security forces during an argument, after he refused to leave his home.

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