Dubai Consumer Mirror

Friday, July 11, 2008

Riyadh - another unforgettable moment

24hrs ago, there was a chance that I may not be with you..

It all started when I went to bed in my Four Seasons Hotel @ The Kingdom tower in Riyadh.

I had an 8AM flight to catch and because of a really busy day, I had a late dinner, hence a late go-to-bed time. And because of the training sessions I held that day, I didn't get much sleep the night before preparing for them.

So I called reception and requested a couple wake up calls. 5:15am, and a reminder at 5:30 – that’s to make sure I don’t miss the flight and gain an underserved additional day in Rio… (that’s Riyadh in case you didn’t make the link)

At around 2 something AM, I opened my eyes the same way one would wake up realizing he missed an final exam or an important Job interview.. but mine was for a different reason. I was coughing lightly and something in the air just didn’t feel right.

There was a burning smell in the room. I got up and moved around. My laptop and cell phone were on charge. I smelled them and they were OK. The sleeping light (it was on) was also fine. The TV set was cold and fine.

As I roamed around the different parts of the room , it looked like that the smell was slipping from the AC vent.

I called the operator and told him that I am smelling something burning. This is the answer I got (I swear to you I am not joking).

“My pleasure sir, let me transfer you to the reception desk please”

So much for emergency escalation protocol, i thought to myself.

“Yeah hi, there is smell of something burning in my room… can you please send someone to check it out?”
“Sure thing sir, I will send someone to your room”

I hung up and kept checking the room’s electrical sockets and wiring. They all seamed fine. However, the smelled started to get stronger and my coughs became more frequent.

No one came up to my room yet.

I decided to take things into my own hands. I packed up my stuff, got everything in my only bag I travel with, quickly got dressed, picked up my ticket and passport and head to the door.

On my way out, I called reception again..

“Hi, I called about 10, 15 minutes ago and informed you about a burning smell in the room. No one came up till now. This is not a joke. There is a strong burning smell and I am leaving the room”

“I am coming up right away sir..”

The room is on the 32nd floor and I don’t want to end up being on the Saudi Gazette the next day as one of the victims Saudis first towering infernos. But again, it could very much be the guy next door to mine, doing his Saudi Jrak (oversized shisha), and his puffs were slipping via the AC ducts.

So, not wanting to look like another over excited Dubai based drama queen, I walked out of the room, closed the door behind me and waited in corridor for the reception guy to come in.

3 or 4 minutes passed, a guy comes rushing through the hallway.

“it’s a very strong smell,” I told him as he walked passed me and slipped his card in the door slot.

He opened the door and the smell hit both of us surprisingly hard. I was shocked myself how the charred odor got so much stronger. Not only that, but the room was hazy. It looked as if someone spent the last 3 hours there, smoking one pack of ciggerates after another.

“I am so sorry for this sir, i will check you in another room”

“Thats not improtnat now, can you please talk to whoever you need to talk to, to find the source of this? It looks very serious.”

“Yes, yes”.. and head toward the phone and reported it. He called to check whether they had any rooms ready for me to move into. By then, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in the entire place in the first place.

“it looks like the AC fan motor is faulty – its burned and caused that smell to spread around ur room. I am very sorry for that sir”

Another man came in.

He immediately opened the hatch in the false ceiling and confirmed the receptionist theory.

“Don’t worry sir, thank God the fire is not serious,” the second guy said. “ Or else, the fire alarm should’ve gone off. Its only the AC fan motor.”

And thank God I am not a serious sleeper, I thought to myself. Or else I could’ve died of asphyxia during my sleep.

"Thats fine," I said. "these things happen."

I was escorted to a new room. But all that excitement kept me up for the rest of last night until it was time for me to head to the airport.

I checked out about 3hrs after the incident. No one mentioned it at the reception desk. Not even a “sorry for the inconvenience”, marking another unforgettable moment in Riyadh.


  • good thing ur safe...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 11, 2008 at 8:56 PM  

  • Astounding. But then, isn't Saudi lethargy in the face of disasters legendary?

    By Anonymous Pierre Tristam, at July 11, 2008 at 11:12 PM  

  • Wow... The first time in a long time I decide to peek in here, and look at the story you have to tell!!

    So glad you're alright.

    By Blogger Tainted Female, at July 11, 2008 at 11:58 PM  

  • Let's be glad then that the smoke detectors only detect serious fires *rolls eyes*

    7amdella 3ala salamtak

    By Blogger KJ, at July 12, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

  • Many, many years ago, staying at the Alkhozama in Riyadh (at that time the best hotel in the city!), a colleague was told: "Your friend is waiting for you at the car wash at the top of Sitteen Street".

    There is no car wash in Sitten Street. In fact, at the time, there wasn't one in Riyadh at all.

    30 minutes and a huge amount of frustration later, colleague works out that we actually mean 'car crash', by which time said 'friend' is in the nick.

    You reminded me of the story, is all! :)

    By Blogger alexander..., at July 13, 2008 at 10:04 AM  

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