It’s strange to be in Riyadh and to be reminded of my three month Hotel California incarceration back in Dubai. It’s not that I am wondering if I will ever leave my current hotel, off the Olaya Road, it’s just the familiar breakfast room scene. This time no over-attentive waiters I want to stab with my steely steely butter knife, but the same dismal selection of instant coffee, tea, cold egg and cardboard corn flakes lightly dusted with sweetener. Unlike the HC however, these guys don’t offer any kind of cold drink, not even tap water. On arriving in the modestly air conditioned “mezzanine” I had to engage in a complex exchange in Arabic and English with, I think, a Vietnamese guy, who I thought was telling me that water was "tap", to which I said "no problem", only to find that he was actually saying it was “charge”, a rather different concept to which my reaction was an angry “la”….I expressed to him later how appalling it was to offer your guests such a sumptuous selection of food and hot drinks, but to deny them complementary water. The next day I got them to bring me some chilled eau d’tap, a privilege, only upon request, I was treated to the following morning as well, albeit at more like room temperature. Yesterday, however, was a write off. I had previously been told at reception breakfast did not start until 8, but rang the desk anyway as I had woken early to see if this really the start time for the most important meal of the day. "Akeed".. 7'o clock it will start, I was assured, and arrived at the mezzanine to find only empty tables. This morning, deciding it was safer to arrive at 8, it was the same, however I discovered that breakfast had been relocated and in fact always begins at 7….."maloom". However not only was cold water still not standard, but the hot water for making tea was cold too. I placed my finger in my freshly made cup of tea to accentuate the point to the waiter
My first hotel upon arrival in this dustbowl was The Riyadh Palace. It took the driver an eternity to find as he wanted to take me to a backstreet three star. However this dubiously described five star was too far from where I needed to be. On reflection I wished I taken the three star as I am currently still in dispute with them about an extra night’s charges that they have deducted from my bank card – without authorization. This house of ill repute is in hiya’ al wazaraat (ministerial area). Be warned. (After 36 hours I have just been told that I will be credited what was taken in error…)
It’s great to be in my present abode, however. Huge apartments without natural light and subtle over-head strip lighting have always been the best places to relax in. However the ample kitchen allows much room for storing cold drinks and Saudi salami, so I am most delighted. Less thrilling was my failed attempt to let in natural light, which made the ultra thick blankets that cover the windows impossible to unroll again, and a two day battle to get a bulb for the single bedside light. All is now resolved, however, and I am in accommodational bliss. Natch.