Manama: Saudi Arabia has dismissed reports that it would allow hotels and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages as “fabricated lies”.
A copy of a purported letter attributed to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs claimed that local and international hotels, restaurants and cafés had been informed that they could serve alcoholic beverages to adult customers in dedicated areas.
The fabricated letter circulated over the weekend claimed that the approval to serve alcoholic beverages was based on the decision announced last month by the General Entertainment Authority to issue permits to cafés and restaurants to host live musical performances and standup comedy events.
“The forgery is very blatant and anyone can spot it easily,” sources told Saudi news site Sabq. “The title of the interior minister is a clear example that the letter is forged.”
Sabq Deputy Editor in Chief Abdullah Al Beqawi posted that the forged letter aimed to harm Saudi Arabia.
“The letter about allowing restaurants and cafés to offer alcohol is fake. Hostile parties concoct such rumors with the aim of insulting the country and arousing public opinion,” he posted on his Twitter account.
The General Entertainment Authority has launched an ambitious programme that aims to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top 10 international entertainment destinations.
“In order to achieve such an objective, the GEA has negotiated long-term contracts with more than 100 local and international partners,” GEA Chairman Turki Al Shaikh said in January.
However, he insisted that the events would be presented in a way that respects local values.
“Our traditions and culture will be respected. Our religion is clear and we will adhere to our Islamic values,” he said.
On Thursday, Mariah Carey became the highest profile international artist to perform in Saudi Arabia since restrictions on entertainment were eased in the kingdom.
Thousands of Saudis turned up to cheer their favourite diva as she performed at an outdoor arena at King Abdullah Economic City in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
On Friday evening, Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli thrilled an exuberant audience at Al Ula.
“This is my first time to perform in Saudi Arabia, and I’m very pleased with the great reception and hospitality I received from the organisers and the wonderful audience here,” said the Tuscan tenor who wore a ghitra, the traditional headdress worn by men in the Gulf.
“Al Ula is a great surprise. It’s a beautiful natural destination, and it has been an honor to sing in such majestic surroundings.”
Arab superstars Rashid Al Majed, Kadhim Al Saher and Majid Al Mohandas have also performed at Al Ula.