Drinking in Saudi Arabia
With a 74year old grandfather awaiting 350 lashes in a Saudi Jail for possession of Alcohol Saudi Arabia is once again in the news for its wonderful views on corporal punishment. It is also very much in the spotlight for its views about drinking alcohol, views that to most that have spent any time in the kingdom would see as very hypocritical.
Personal experience of Saudi’s is that most of the ones that I spent any time with outside of work were regular drinkers, many smoked hash and marijuana, while others took far harder drugs. All of this is very easy to come by in Saudi Arabia where penalties for these offenses can be terminal!
Saudis Drinking Booze
Saudis do drink and this week there is a picture doing the rounds online of an abaya clad woman laying drunk in the road in Saudi.Along with various stories in the papers about the culture of drinking in Saudi Arabia for both Expats and also the Saudis themselves.
This article even has a few quotes direct from me about the way Saudis and expats are drinking alcohol.
With all of the fuss going on I have even been contacted by the BBC for an interview regarding the culture of drinking there in Saudi:
Do Saudis Drink in KSA?
Most of my Saudi friends in the kingdom had a bottle or several of the hard stuff in their homes and some even bought the wine and beer that I used to brew in my home. Although I was very careful as to which Saudis I would allow to take alcohol from me as the repercussions of any of them saying that I had supplied them with the booze would be very serious.
When I was living in Jeddah I had several close Saudi friends that I would socialize with most weekends. Time that would generally be spent either at my home, one of their homes, or one of the many parties that we had there in the Kingdom. When we got together we would always have a drink, usually it was my home made wine, beer, or sidique that I would buy from a couple of Filipino guys that I knew that distilled it. Sidique is basically pure alcohol, although if not distilled correctly it can contain other even more lethal ingredients such as methanol. So great care should always be taken when buying it to ensure that it burns with a pure blue flame with no other colors and that it leaves no residue after burning.
When we drank at my home there was no problem as I would just get the booze from the refrigerator where I would keep it. However if we were having a party the alcohol would need to be transported. This was something that I personally would never do, having been stopped several times at random road blocks over the years it is pretty obvious that you could easily get caught. For this reason it would always be one of my Saudi friends that would collect and transport the booze. They said this was not a problem for them as if they were ever stopped they would just share a bottle with the police and there would not be a problem.
Saudi Drinking Habbits
While I would often drink home brew on the compounds or in my own home I would more often than not get the “real thing” if I should visit a friends home. Most would have a bottle of Jack Daniels or Gold Label available while we chatted and they smoked their funny cigarettes. I should add that I don’t smoke or do any form of drugs but I am not the sort that preaches at others for doing it either.
Most of them would either smuggle it in themselves from trips to Bahrain or Dubai as they would always know someone at the airport on the bridge who could help ensure that they were not checked. Or they would buy from one of the many people that they knew that shipped in bulk.
I remember a few years back that they were all upset as one of their suppliers had been arrested with a truck filled with cases of Vodka, Whiskey and just about every other type of spirit you could imagine. However after a few weeks the supplier and the booze was all back on the street; obviously some dealing had been done at higher levels to ensure that things flowed smoothly.
Drink Freely Available in Saudi Arabia
While a bottle of good home made wine or Sidique may set you back around 100 riyals and real booze often 1000riyals or more it was freely available if you knew who to talk to. Many expats would brew their own on the compounds and their were others that would brew in bulk in locations around the city. Booze is not something that is hard to find in Saudi Arabia whether you are a Saudi or an expat.