Getting Lashed on Booze in Saudi Arabia

British Grandfather to be Lashed for Alcohol Possession in Saudi Arabia


As most people will be aware a 74 year old grandfather from the UK but working in Saudi Arabia is soon to be given 350 lashes for possession of home made wine in his car. He was actually caught and sentenced over a year ago but this story is only now hitting the media as he is now awaiting the lashes that he was sentenced to. He has already spent over a year in one of Saudi’s harsh jails.

He was originally sentenced to 12 months in jail with no mention of lashes, however he has now been imprisoned for 14 months and will remain in jail until he has received his 350 lashes.

His family have of course urged the British Government to ask the Saudi’s for clemency however that at the moment does not seem to be coming. They have also cancelled some contracts with the Saudi Government in protest at what is going on.

Why Carry Alcohol in Saudi Arabia?


You have to ask yourself what this guy was doing with alcohol in his car when anyone that has been there for more than 5 minutes is more than aware that they are not allowed to posses any form of alcohol – not even mouthwash that contains it! Karl however was caught with bottles of home made wine in his car.

I was warned by everyone never to take alcohol in my car no matter what. There are often road blocks set up by the police to catch illegals and just to be a bloody nuisance and it would be all to easy to get stopped and the booze to be found – as Karl has discovered.

So why take the risk? There is a huge amount of alcohol available in Saudi Arabia. Most compounds that contain westerners have a thriving community that brew and drink their own wine and beer. After all it only takes, yeast, sugar and some fruit juice or non-alcoholic beer to make some booze within a few weeks. You will also find other expats (Often Indian, Filipino, or others that are distilling and selling Sidique – neat alcohol). If you are going for a drink with your friends you will usually only drink what is available on the compound that you are on, not bring some with you.

Most of the time the only people that will actually have any amount of alcohol in their car are those that are brewing and selling it. Selling booze can be a very lucrative business. I used to brew wine using wine yeast rather than regular bakers yeast so my wine was far stronger than most of the other wine that was brewed and I often had friends asking to buy it. They would offer 100riyals or more for a 1 liter bottle that’s around 27USD for a bottle of home brewed crap as I am certainly no great brewer – it was drinkable and strong was my only claim.

I used to provide some Filipino friends with bottles that they could sell to their friends to make extra income, when you consider that most of them only earned 1,500 riyals a month from their regular employment, selling bottles of home made booze for 100+ makes a significant impact on your salary.

But getting back to the point – most of the time the only people that are transporting booze are those that are selling it. That is probably why this grandfather is being treated so badly, they probably think that he was intending to sell.


How to transport Alcohol in Saudi Arabia safely


The only answer is don’t – from the fridge to the glass is as far as you really want to be carrying and that is on compound. Drinking anywhere else is fraught with potential dangers.

I used to have a lot of parties off compound with my friends. I was well known for having brewed some strong booze and for hosting good parties. So I used to hire villas with pools for us to have parties at. My friends would chip in. Married couples would bring single ladies with them as they could not get there on their own.

BUT – all the booze that came to my parties would be carried in the car of a Saudi friend of mine. If he got stopped he would simply just hand over a bottle or two to the police and he would be on his way again without a problem. A local can often get away easily with things that can get a foreigner in the country in some serious trouble.


Why do Expats Drink in Saudi Arabia if it is so Dangerous?


With no cinemas, official bars, discos, or anything else to do what else is left? Most of us westerners are used to going to a bar to socialize with our friends and unwinding with a nice cold beer. The guys that come to Saudi are happy if they can do the same. So many will take the risk – but mostly this is on the compounds where the Saudi authorities will turn a blind eye to what is going on. They know that there are bars, they know that the expats make their own booze, they just choose to ignore it – most of the time.


So before you get lashed on home made alcohol there in Saudi or try driving around with any think twice. The punishments are severe and you know it!

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