Hotel review: Al Muthana (Almuthana), Riyadh

For some odd reason, all the “branded” hotels in Riyadh were full last week, so I decided to try out a place I’d had my eye on for a while, namely Al Muthana (or Almuthana, as they like to spell it). It’s a new-looking building right on King Fahd Rd, just behind al-Faisaliah, that I passed by on my daily commute.

The hotel’s own website doesn’t offer online booking, but a site called ResMe.com does, so I booked a “Studio” room for three nights at US$120/night, considerably cheaper than the US$200+ you’d be looking at for my usual Holiday Inn. On showing up, though, check-in didn’t seem to have a clue about my booking or what to do with it, and they bumped me up to a “Junior Suite” and keyed in the rack rate of SR 863, nearly twice what it was supposed to be. I attempted to sort this out the next day, but I had to go through the rigmarole once more on check-out, ending up with a really bizarre looking bill that charged me SR 853 x 3 and then lopped off a few thousand riyal as “SINGLE ROOM DISCOUNT”. Boggle.

So, positive things first: the hotel is very new and very stylishly and modernly done, with glass and muted shades of tan, none of the over-the-top gold glitz that Arabs usually like. The entire place has free, reasonably speedy wireless internet and the basics of my room worked fine. The “Junior Suite” was, indeed, large, although most of the space was rather useless: for example, the TV was perched atop the minibar in a corner, so far away from the sofa that binoculars would have come in handy. The bathroom was also way below Western standards: the shower blatters out only a thin stream of lukewarm water, and on my last day the bathtub plug got stuck, which would’ve led to a nice little flood if I hadn’t managed to pry it open with a nail clipper.

However, it’s the service that really lets down the hotel. The promised fitness center is open only 4 to 10 PM (!?), with a small, dark indoor pool with no access to the outside, and a laughable excuse at a gym that doesn’t even have a functioning treadmill. My room wasn’t cleaned at all on the first day, there was no sign of the promised fruit basket, and water bottles weren’t replenished. I tried to order room service breakfast one morning, but nobody even bothered to pick up the little hang-on-the-door order form. Breakfast at the mezzanine floor cafe was quite OK though, brought plate by plate according to your order (no buffets) in Western or Arabic style, if a little expensive at SR 69.

All in all, for a quick overnighter Al Muthana would be fine, and the price certainly is very attractive. But for a longer stay, it’s worth it to find a place that actually knows what they’re doing.

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