Saturday, 2 June 2012

Ritz Carlton, Riyadh.


'Puttin on the Ritz' in the Ritz Carlton, Riyadh is a coffee date not to be missed.  The place is rather spectacular.

My friend phoned me one day some months ago. 
Would you like to go for coffee at the Ritz? she asked. 
Yes, said I
Excellent, she said and a date was set.

Such an occasion calls for dressing up a little - wearing my 'going out' abaya, the one made of shiny satin with gold coloured embroidered trim and a headscarf to match.  Name dropping, or in our case position mentioning complete with 'We're with an important company' business card, got us a personal tour of the premises.

We were shown through the restaurants (some weren't open for business yet as The Ritz in Riyadh had only recently opened its doors).  The largest of these is the buffet.   It was put on my list of places to try.

The pool area is quite large with its lovely loungers and stunning mocaics overlooked by the smaller more intimate dining areas.  Can women swim here?  The managment may well consider women only swimming days.  In case you're thinking you will be eating while watching some bloke in his bathers, don't fear - the pool is closed during busy meal times.


The smaller restaurants that look out onto the pool include an Italian, a Chinese (not yet open), a 'piano bar' which welcomes (so I hear) any good pianists who would like to entertain fellow guests and a 'clubroom' where, if you pay a fair amount of SAR's, you get to enjoy the facilities within. 

There is a bowling alley downstairs open for women only on Tuesdays.  We were also taken to a wing of the hotel and shown the rooms - Mr Key and his entourage would be very happy with the apartments should he ever have cause to head this way with the blessing of the tax payer footing the bill.  The security rating was emphasised on more than one occasion on our tour.

We even got to gate crash a medical conference. 

'Come in', said the women in their last year of medical school to our question, 'What's going on in there?'. 
'We haven't registered', we said. 
'That's ok', they said and showed us to our seats and brought us orange juice so we were nicely settled just as the speaker was about to begin.  I found the topic under discussion (spinal surgery) quite fascinating though my company was a little lost, so we excused ourselves and headed out to the cafe lounge - there are four of them on each side of the entrance foyer, one offering an al-fresco option for dining.



Everything in the hotel is very plush.  Not ostentatious - which some furnishings in the country can be - but definitely opulent.  The stone arched gateway, the lengthy palm tree bordered drive terminating in fabulous fountains, men in uniforms to open your door and, once past the security screen, the grand open foyer with beautiful flower pieces taking center stage beneath a dazzling display of glittering lights is exactly what one would expect of a palace hotel in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


We enjoyed playing ladies that day at the Ritz Carlton, sipping our coffee and nibbling our light lunch seated in the lounge and promised to come back to spoil ourselves sometime.  My chance came sooner than expected when my husband said to me last week, 'Where would you like to go for dinner for our wedding anniversary?' How about The Ritz , I said.

Hubsters receptionist rang and booked a table in the Italian a la carte' restaurant.  He mentioned the occasion we were celebrating and on arrival we were greeted outside the resatuarant by the head waiter and shown to our rose petal decorated table.  How sweet.



The meal was superb.  The service very attentive.  The scene was very pretty seated beside the pool and the atmosphere very relaxed.  Perfect for a 31st wedding anniversary.  And the price, I have to say, was not as exhorbitant as I imagined it would be.  Ekky yes.  Ultra ekky, no. 

It is obvious that The Ritz has a very good training programme.   On our way out, when we were standing around admiring the decor a young man from guest services took the time to introduce himself and explain the facilities and services, all in a very professional and friendly manner.

If you ever fancy coffee, lunch or dinner in palatial surrounds fit for a King then throw on your best abaya and head to The Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.

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