Iraq just banned alcohol, but what about other Arab countries?

The Iraqi parliament voted for a complete ban on the sale, production and import of alcohol over the weekend, angering minority sects in the country.

“This article of the law goes against the constitution, which guarantees the freedoms of minorities,” Christian MP Yonadam Kanna told AFP. He explained that violators of the new law will incur fines ranging between $8,000 to $20,000.

“This law will put people out of jobs, drug consumption will rise, the economy will be affected.”

However, supporters of the law have argued that the constitution safeguards Islam’s Sharia principles.

While many Muslims abstain from drinking alcohol and it is normally accepted that the Quran forbids its consumption, the majority of Arab countries do not have total bans against alcohol in place. Here’s a look at liquor laws throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Libya

These three countries ban the sale, consumption and production of alcoholic beverages. But, that doesn’t stop some people from obtaining it through illegal means.

Last November, a smuggler was caught entering Saudi Arabia with some 48,000 cans of beer disguised with Pepsi labels.

Yemen, Sudan and Somalia

In these countries, alcohol is illegal but rules are much more lax for non-Muslims.

In Yemen specifically, non-Muslims are allowed to bring small amounts of alcohol into the country, which can be consumed on private property. Also, some hotels and restaurants in Aden and Sana’a are allowed to sell alcohol to individuals over the age of 21.

United Arab Emirates

Alcohol is readily available at restaurants, bars and clubs inside hotels throughout the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Technically, residents of the UAE are required to have a liquor license in order to purchase and consume alcohol but it’s not routine for bars and restaurants to check.

The strictness of liquor laws varies between emirates, with Sharjah forbidding the sale of liquor completely and Ajman being quite lax in its regulations.

Only certain stores in the UAE sell alcoholic beverages and these require purchasers to show their liquor license. Only non-Muslims are technically allowed to obtain a liquor license and consume alcohol.


Qatar’s regulations are similar to the UAE but slightly more strict in their enforcement, especially when it comes to applying for a liquor license.

Getting a liquor license in Qatar is a tedious and long process but bars and restaurants in hotels generally sell freely to foreigners. There is only one liquor store in the country and the amount of alcohol you are allowed to purchase is limited each month, based on your income and the size of your family.


Bahrain is the most permissive about alcohol regulation of the Gulf countries, with numerous restaurants, pubs and clubs that serve it (they don’t have to be in hotels like in the Emirates). Public drinking is completely prohibited and there is no minimum alcohol content for driving–the mere smell of alcohol behind the wheel is enough to get you arrested.

There have been efforts by the country’s parliament to ban liquor in recent years.

“I’m sorry to say, but Bahrain has become the brothel of the Gulf, and our people are very upset about it,” parliamentarian Adel Maawdah, a supporter of the crackdown, told The Wall Street Journal in 2009.


Technically, only non-muslims can obtain a license to drink alcohol in Oman, meaning drinking is restricted to tourists and expats. Similarly to Bahrain, there have been moves to ban alcohol in the country in recent years.

In December of 2014, 84 percent of the sultanate’s shura council voted for a measure to ban alcohol but a government official said last year that there are “no plans to ban alcohol” in the country. But, the country may institute stricter regulations for the sale and consumption of liquor.

Throughout Muscat, many pubs, restaurants and hotels have alcohol on the menu.

Lebanon and Syria

Liquor is readily available and easy to consume in Lebanon and Syria. Beirut is well-known for its vibrant nightlife, rooftop parties and unique nightclubs. However, there are still certain areas in both countries where alcohol is less accessible and discouraged, such as in Tripoli and Saida. Some liquor stores have also bombed in recent years in the southern city of Tyre.

Both countries have an extensive history of wine production. Recently, craft beer has taken off in Lebanon as well.

Palestine and Jordan

Alcohol is available at many restaurants, hotels and shops, but many choose not to sell and serve alcohol as a result of personal conviction – because of widespread conservatism, this means that there is not an abundance of alcohol sales.

There are also several breweries and wineries in both countries.


The sale, production and consumption of alcohol is legal in Egypt, and there are wineries and breweries in the country, by and large monopolized by The Al-Ahram Beverages Company. This monopoly combined with prohibitive import taxes on alcohol means that alcoholic beverages are unaffordable to the vast majority of Egyptians.

A 2013 survey found that 75 per cent of people find alcohol consumption “unacceptable”.

Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia

The sale, production and consumption of alcohol is legal in these three countries. However, an overall conservative disposition means that tourists are the main consumers of alcohol.


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