Monday, May 22, 2006

"High" Tea

While you're waiting for the Dubai Weekend story (I'm bigging it up aren't I? It'd better be good!)...

One of the "must do" things in Riyadh (and let's face it - there aren't many!) is to have Afternoon Tea in The Globe Restaurant. If you recall from my early posts the Globe is a ...well... globe at the top of one of Riyadh's two skyscrapers: The Faisaliah.

We had put off visiting the Faisaliah tower until recently, instead focusing on the Kingdom Tower or, to be more accurate, the Kingdom Centre shopping mall at its base.
A couple of weeks ago we could deny our curiosity no longer and paid the Faisaliah Mall a visit: shiny, nicely designed, full of designer shops and very expensive. They've even got a Harvey Nichols!

Anyway to get back to the point of the story...

We'd heard from others at the Embassy that Afternoon Tea at The Globe is very nice, and as with most things in Riyadh the only way to find out about things is to ask as many people as possible, then average out all the answers and you'll be pretty close to the truth. Official websites are useless, there's no point asking locals or the attraction-in-question's staff, and at time of writing TimeOut have yet to be convinced to produce a Riyadh edition, so all you've got to go on is the opinion of other expats and Embassy staff.

Phone call to The Globe:-
Me: Hello, we're thinking of coming for Afternoon Tea...
Them: Yes?
Me: Are children welcome?
Them: No, no children
Me: Oh, and are women permitted to take their abayas off in the restaurant? (I'd been told they could)
Them: Of course not!

Chats with various friends:-
Me: Have you been to The Globe for Afternoon Tea?
Friend: Oh yes, it's very nice. Get there around 5.00 and watch the sunset!
Me: They told me they don't allow children in for Afternoon Tea!
Friend: That's not right, We've been a couple of times and took the children (their children are younger than ours). Just don't tell them you're bringing children.
Me: Do you think I need to reserve a table?
Friend: Oh yes definitely, it's very popular and always busy.

So, averaging all that out we need to make a reservation, omitting that we intend to bring children, and we'll suss out the abaya situation once we're inside. I call and make a reservation for four "people" for the following Saturday afternoon.

Come the day and we arrive at The Faisaliah, Elliot and I in smart casual attire and Karen and Abigail with nice outfits on under their abayas - just in case. The guard at the Globe Reception Desk at the base of the tower leads us through an airport-style security check - X-Ray machine and walk-thru metal detector - before taking us up to the Globe which is reached via two separate lifts; the first takes you up to the 50th floor then a second one takes you the rest of the way.

Boy am I glad we booked a table! The place is completely deserted and we are the only customers there. The waiter doesn't react at seeing that we've brought children, nor is anything said when Karen and Abigail shed their abayas. Maybe things would be different if it were busy, but I doubt it. This is Saturday after all (which is Monday here remember), so probably the least popular day of the week to come, but we don't mind since there's table after table of delicious-looking food and it's all for us!

Not quite the cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off served on a silver tray that I was expecting, but still very nice. The tables and chairs are very modern and the food is a self-service buffet laid out around the tower's central column. We order drinks and then make our selections from the savoury snacks: samosas, sushi, vol-au-vents, sausage rolls... I could go on but It's starting to make me feel hungry again.

With the boring savoury stuff out of the way it's on to the main event,

and Abigail makes a bee-line for the white chocolate fountain,

into which she dips a couple of strawberries and marshmallows.

We continue to stuff ourselves for about an hour, and when our stomachs can hold no more our attention turns to the view outside and the promised spectacular sunset.

Downtown Riyadh is not the prettiest sight in the world but you can see how the low-rise nature of the city really makes the two towers stand out. You can also make out the busy King Fahd Highway running roughly North-South between the two towers.

We've picked a very hazy day (we've had lots of sand and duststorms lately), so the sunset is not worth a mention, but after tea we went out to the observation deck and got this interesting shot of the Kingdom Tower reflected in the globe.

I'm sure we'll go back again in the summer, when I hope to have some nicer skyline photos to show you.


Joe King Gas-Eyed said...

With all your detailed observation; you failed to mention the roofs of houses. Maybe it's because I'm an architect, but the advent of the skycrapers in Riyadh uncovered the sourest of the eye sours.

As for me, what I enjoy seeing at either of the towers is the traffic below, especially the 'ripple' effect (or phenomenon) as its happening in real time.

Chris said...

Agree on both points Joe; the roofs of the lower buildings are ugly to look at, most of which are full of satellite dishes.
Still not sure where you _really_ live: when were you last here?

Joe King Gas-Eyed said...

What makes you think I'm still not here? Next time you drive around in your Prado; look in the rear view mirror. An identical Prado might be following you around.

Joking aside (or is it Joe King Gas Eyed?); it would really be nice to meet you in person at a Cafe soon. We seem to have more in common than we think (and that's not counting the Prados).

Chris said...

Hi Joe,

I didn't realize you lived here too - must've missed your mentioning it in an earlier comment. I checked your Blogger profile and when I saw "North Utopiaberg" I have to say Riyadh wasn't the first place that came to mind! :-)

Happy to meet up - send me an email to so I've got your address and we'll set it up.


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