by Rosie Alfatlawi
If you were hoping to surprise your significant other this Valentine’s Day, look no further than a room at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel.
It may currently be a prison for corruption detainees, but the luxury location is now taking bookings for Feb. 14.
Want a romantic Valentine's Day with that special someone? The Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, currently serving as a jail, is open for bookings from February 14. https://t.co/P5eOJZU3ky— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) January 15, 2018
After dozens of public figures were arrested in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's anti-corruption drive last November, reports soon emerged that they were being held at the high-end establishment in the capital.
With many arrestees now released - having struck deals to exchange assets for their freedom in some cases - and with others reportedly moved to al-Hayer prison last week, it seems the one-time detention center may now return to hotel duties.
You can currently book a double room for the middle of next month at the eye watering price of 2,489 riyals (approximately 663 dollars) through its website.
Still, before you get your hopes up, best bear in mind that the online booking service has been reopened previously only for reservations to be cancelled.
This could mean an anticipation by #Saudi gov that anti-corruption cases will be concluded by then (negots now with Waleed bin Talal). But since Hotel is not liable for cancellations, plans for Valentine’s at Ritz Riyadh may still be premature.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) January 15, 2018
For many outside the ultraconservative Gulf state, the coincidence was a source for amusement.
“Give your sweetheart the full ‘royal’ treatment,” joked @EnergzdEconomy on Twitter, while @AndrewMLeber quipped in reply: “for a captivating evening.”
Meanwhile, @8bdr8 wondered if rooms would be labeled appropriately: “Cell number 1,” he tweeted in response.
“Darn, I was so hoping to take my wife to the Ritz Riyadh,” added @mls1776 in response to hints the reopening might be delayed. “Guess it’s the Four Seasons Aleppo for another year.”
Some macabre commenters even jested the walls might be dyed red, in reference to allegations of torture at the hotel. One report had claimed that a prince had died as a result of electric shocks received while imprisoned there.
"Sarah Walker-Kerr, a Dubai-based spokeswoman for Marriott, of which the Ritz Carlton is a subsidiary, declined to comment."..— Billy Tyndale (@billytyndale) January 15, 2018
Not surprising considering that they made a record profit in the last quarter of the year by imprisoning and torturing people in the hotel.. pic.twitter.com/shMuHyrlFR
In Saudi Arabia itself, however, suggestions in the media that the hotel could be destination for the upcoming occasion were dismissed for a whole other reason.
Angry commenters missed the irony, instead accusing media outlets sharing the news of attempting “to provoke sedition in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia.”
In previous years, authorities have banned celebration of the day, confiscating roses and even arresting those who marked the occasion.
But Valentines Day is totally banned there. The Mutawa make all the shops remove anything with hearts, flowers etc etc. You can be fined even jailed if your caught selling it.— Sir Aaron McCord (@Armor_10) January 15, 2018
“A malicious expression which betrays a desire to spread the culture of love and forbidden relations, and the eradication of chastity and conservative character,” tweeted @killerss460.
Others suggested that “all of our days are [full of] love with our wives” and that religiously observant Arabs “don't need a particular day like the infidels.”
All in all, possibly not the most romantic place to relax this Feb. 14.
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