Madinah visitors complain about high rents

Updated 22 June 2012

Madinah visitors complain about high rents

Visitors who come to Madinah to pray at the Prophet's Mosque have been complaining about the exceptional high rates of hotels and furnished apartments, especially in the area around the mosque. They have urged the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to intervene and put an end to the soaring prices.
According to sources working in the sector, the occupancy rates in hotels near the Prophet's Mosque have reached more than 98 percent, while the prices have increased by over 65 percent. They said the visitors were complaining that there were no vacancies and that reservations were not available until after the Haj season, which falls in October.
Ahmed Al-Dhiyabi, a Saudi citizen, said he had been searching in vain for a room or a suite in the hotels close to the mosque. "All receptionists told me there were no rooms available. I tried my luck in the furnished apartments away from the mosque only to find that their prices were unbearable," he said.
Pakistani Mujeeburrahman Afzal advised visitors not to look for accommodation in the central area. "You will just be wasting your time," he told the
He said the rates of furnished apartments had gone from SR 250 per day to more than SR 420. "I had no choice but to go to Pakistan House 2, which has been allocated for Pakistani pilgrims and visitors," he added.
Ahmed Fallatah, a Saudi national, asked the SCTA to step in quickly to control the prices of hotels and furnished apartments in the city. The commission had allowed the furnished apartments all over the Kingdom to increase their rates in the high summer season by 50 percent and hotels by 30 percent.
Fallatah said despite these limits set by the SCTA, the facilities had increased their prices by more than 65 percent.
A director of the division of rooms in a hotel who did not want to be identified said occupancy in hotels in the central area had reached more than 98 percent. He pointed out that most hotels preferred to sign contracts with Haj and Umrah companies that bring pilgrims and visitors from outside. "These long-term contracts ensure the hotels with occupancy throughout the year," he said.
Ahmed Al-Sahali, an official in another hotel at the central area, said the hotels were competing against each other by providing special services to the guests. "We also provide special facilities to businessmen on executive floors," he added.
He noted that hotel occupancy was usually high during this time of the year, due to school summer vacation. "This year, the holidays coincided with the Umrah season, taking occupancy to its highest level," he said.
Al-Sahali feared that visitors would face yet more problems finding accommodation in Madinah during Ramadan, which is a month away. "Finding a hotel room during the last 10 days of Ramadan is next to impossible," he warned.


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 30 min 40 sec ago

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.