Saturday, 16 December 2006

Tea at the Sheraton Hotel

English Tea at the Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait is certainly a compensation for the barrenness of the land. It is an extremely decadent and civilised pastime. The English School Kuwait provides this function to it’s ex pat teaching staff and governors before the start of each academic year.

The Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait is situated on a busy roundabout (called the Sheraton roundabout) with few parking spaces nearby so for those not arriving in a taxi, the best way to park is to use the very civilised valet parking provision. This facility is to be found at all the hotels, some of the shopping malls and the supermarkets where parking is difficult. You drive up to the door, get out and a man in valet parking uniform gives you a card and drives your car away. To retrieve your car you give your card to the person at the valet parking desk outside the door, they bring your car to you and you pay them 1KD and off you drive. No hassle!The function is held in the English Tea Lounge, which is furnished with old-fashioned quality settees and chairs around beautiful coffee tables. Nothing is uniform; the styles of the furniture and upholstery blend with each other but do not match. The large windows are dressed with large print floral curtains and the whole room has an English air to it. The southern Asian waitresses are in black and white uniforms and come around first with single fruit smoothies such as strawberry, kiwi, orange, mango and lemon. The only drink that seems to have water and sugar added is the lemon. The others are the pure fruit made into a thick liquid.

Then came the three-tiered trays of delicacies. Some plates had savouries while some have sweet. The savouries consisted of tiny man-sized bite sandwiches with different breads and fillings. Of course, they did not leave out the cucumber ones or the smoked salmon but there was a great variety including toasted sandwiches, which were still warm! They had tiny quiches, pizzas and cheese covered in breadcrumbs and fried. The scones were dinky and of course, jam and cream were provided. The chocolate covered strawberries, tiny bite sized cakes and the tiny fruit tarts were delicious. The waitresses served tea, coffee and water and kept filling up your cup and glass and the tiered plates were replenished when needed.

Another highlight of the afternoon for the ladies is a trip to the toilets (sorry bathroom for the Americans reading, although of course there was no bath in there.) This is a luxurious room with each toilet in it’s own separate room as opposed to cubicles. There were the tiny terry cotton towels at the ornate sinks but the pierce to rĂ©sistance is the room at the end, which has ‘antique’ French settees around the mirrored walls with a choice of leg and foot massagers. We tried the leg massagers last year, which were so fierce they hurt our legs, so this year we concentrated on the foot massage. Mmmm!

Sitting around taking tea at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is a great way of getting to know each other as a staff. The school retains staff well but there is always new staff arriving each year and so we get to chat with each other and the governors. One of our governors this year is the managing director of BP in Kuwait and so we had a fascinating discussion centering on energy in all its forms. Many ex pat staff have taught in different parts of the world so their experiences are interesting additions to any discussion.

It was a bit of a shock to come out into the heat of a Kuwait early evening.