The Best and Worst Medical Experience in Riyadh


After passing an Aramex, Burger King, and Al-Rahji on the left, make the left at the fork in the road. Continue looking left. It's the 2nd or 3rd street across from shopping center. Smile Design is on the side of building, 2nd floor.

After passing an Aramex, Burger King, and Al-Rahji on the left, make the left at the fork in the road. Continue looking left. It’s the 2nd or 3rd street across from shopping center. Smile Design is on the side of building, 2nd floor.


Smile Design Dental

Suleymania Square

Mousa bin nuseir street

Riyadh, KSA

The taxi meter creeps up in Riyals, as I search relentlessly for this dentist office known for its luxuriousness and cheap (insurance free) cleanings. As I make my 3rd tour around Suleymania Square, I’m ready to call it quits, until finally I find

Smile Design peeking from the side of a factory building. Perhaps I was looking for a royal-like exterior, instead of a cluttered side alley with an undefined dark entrance. The elevator doors of the 2nd floor open to a bright, airy lobby that steals all of the customers from the gloomy businesses downstairs. Suddenly, my Nike’s feel unworthy of stepping onto the polished cement floors of purple, glittery swirls. I would normally have thought of purple and glitter as quite gay, but now consider where in my house to put the combination.

Being the first customer since noon prayer, female dentists are just now making their way back in. A stunning receptionist, dressed as if she works for a high-end hotel, sits under an impressive chandelier. She asks in impeccable English of which services I’ll be needing. A simple cleaning doesn’t sound like enough, but I stick with the original plan. I take out a pen in preparation of filling out medical forms. Unexpectantly, my pen was met by her IPad. Portable online applications? Am I so far in the past, to not have seen this coming?

I go to the women’s waiting room and take a seat on the black and white furniture, encased by funky metallic walls. Pink cones and flowers accent the modern corner tables. And rare melodies of Enya play softly, so not to outshine the sounds of the waterfall feature at the entrance. I almost forget that I’m in Saudi, until I flip through fashion magazines with blacked-out faces, arms, and legs, for its modest readers.

The Filipina dentist, who ends every sentence with “Madame”, calls me into her high tech office of rotating chairs and gadgets.  This is nothing like the scary dentist appointments of your childhood. She hands me some earphones and turns on the television mounted to the ceiling above. A nature scenery plays, as she meticulously paid every tooth the same attention, unrushed. When it came time for the rinse, I had a flashback of the bubblegum “SWISH” from my elementary years. She ends every session with a flossing tutorial. Then she finishes off with honest recommendations and is patient with questions. That was the best dental experience ever. Out of the three dentists I’ve visited in this country, Smile Design wins hands-down!



Durrat Ghronata Medical Complex

Khalid Bin Whalid, Exit 8

(same corner as ROAM market)

Riyadh, KSA

This winter fills my apartment with brutal bouts of viruses and stomach bugs. Only because I can’t make it longer than a 10-minute taxi ride, is why I pay the dreaded visits to Durrat Ghronata up the road. Walking up to the counter, the receptionist glances at the ghastly pale and frail bodies that stand in front of her. Her questions are always short, never sweet. Prepare for the unprepared, as this facility lacks direction and organization.  I am told to go “somewhere” upstairs to sit in one of the three waiting areas, as opposed to the dingy red nurse’s lounge that I waited in last month. I go for the room with a play-set, as I assume that it’s designated solely for women and children. I opt out of the beige couch turned brown, and sit on the bench, conscious not to touch any railings.

A nurse suddenly comes with a small clear bottle and asks for a stool sample. Now… public bathrooms gross me out in general, let alone asking me to do #2 in public. After I find the facility’s only bathroom, I realize that it has a water-spray, instead of toilet paper. I know that works for some people, but I just can’t do it. So basically they’re not getting anything from me today. The nurse seems irritated when I come back empty handed. I’m sure she can’t go on command either…

When I finally see the doctor, I give him a run-through of the stomach virus. He asks how long this has been going on; the symptoms. But somehow he misses important questions like “What have you been eating/drinking?” and “Do you have any history of ____?” I offer him the answers to my own questions. In full abaya, he asks me to hop up on the table. Four deep breaths into the stethoscope, three taps on the stomach, he gives  a “Hmmmm” accompanied by a furrowed brow, and he’s done. I am sent to the emergency section for a saline drip and a prescription to keep food down. I’ve never taken a medical course in my life, but something tells me his degree is worth crap.

I’m a little wary of this assigned treatment, as the emergency “room” is simply rows of curtains, literally three steps away from the main lobby. My neighbor, behind a closed curtain, makes an unwelcoming cry of pain. I’m suddenly reminded of military triage where a soldier with a severed leg is treated right next to someone with a concussion.  I assume that I’d have to put on some type of hygienic clothing. However, my nurse tells me to just pull up the sleeve of my abaya. She walks out and I take a look at the surroundings. There are no handles to open the drawers of the old brown desk, adjacent to the bed. Instead, to open, one must pull on the medical silicon tubing that passes through the holes of where the missing knobs should be.  Old, torn floral wallpaper is the setting for the crafty handmade box used to stash needles. Thankfully, they are all wrapped. After being given two vials of saline, I’m immediately sent on my way. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s the temperature of Hell outside, in the dead of winter.  Drugged, I start counting the beads of sweat rolling down my body that somehow avoids getting soaked up by my encroaching black abaya.  Finally, I catch a taxi, but face the next challenge of remembering my destination in Arabic. In desperation, you can always remember a prayer. Mumbling a few “rights” and “lefts”, I’ve never so urgently wanted my bed and my toilet in my whole life. The driver could’ve taken me for all my money, without me knowing. I did not keep food, nor medicine down, that day.. or the next. I found that the saline basically put me to sleep to forget my hunger. Do your life a favor and just stay away from this clinic.

9 thoughts on “The Best and Worst Medical Experience in Riyadh

  1. It’s probably viral so that’s all they can do for you, but I would never have a saline infusion in a place like you described, it’s a miracle you didn’t get any infection from the needles. Yuck!
    Next time if you have stomach bug, I would recommend you stay home and rest, drink lots of fluids, eat bananas and other foods rich in potassium and you’ll do much better than by going to the Saudi medical clinics 🙂

  2. My dear I’ve not been to the dental site I’ve seen advertised, but I’ve been to that icky medical office you describe here and I wouldn’t trust my cat’s life and welfare to that medical horror let alone mine. One trip to that den of iniquity is what convinced me to always take the taxi over to the Al Hammadi Hospital, which is one short taxi stop away from Kingdom Towers, because I am certain that I can find a decent doctor – at least – one! Everything is clean! But, having said that – I’ll have to check out the Smile Dental offices because they sound great!

  3. An engaging read! You had the yin & yang of
    of experiences. By all accounts are braver and wiser for having had the experiences to reflect upon in bemusement after you’ve returned to the States. You’ll never have to worry about duplication of what you went through that’s for sure!

  4. Worst experience that I have ever had is with Dr Ragad Obeid at the Consulting Clinics in Mecca road – Riyadh – KSA.
    She is an unprofessional, rude, and incompetent dentist. She would never bother to explain what work she was going to carry out in my mouth.

    These are some prime examples of my latest bad experience.
    Bad experience No 1
    She was going to do a bridge for my front teeth but she failed to warn me that in order to do that, she would have had to file my teeth down to minimum. (Please note that was a 2 hour appointment to prepare my teeth for the bridge). When she finished doing that, she then gave me a mirror to have a look at what she had done – I felt faint and she went out of the room and left me with the nurse. I then asked the nurse if she wouldn’t mind taking me to the bathroom – I had no friend or relative accompanying me at that time.

    Bad experience No 2. Dr Obeid, suggested that she could also make another one of my front teeth look aesthetically better and said that she could do a porcelain veneer crown for me. Whilst fitting the crown, it fell from her hand on the floor. Finally, on the same day prior to cementing the crown and the bridge in my mouth she asked me whether I wanted her to cut my gums so that the height of all my teeth would be the same. She did not inform me at the time that that this could be done later. I could not speak anyway because she had my mouth open. I was quite surprised and could not make a judgement at that time, so I waved with my hands “NO” (that was something which was very sudden for me).

    When she finally finished, I noticed that the porcelain crown was fitted higher up in my gum. I noticed it at that time, and I tried to tell her that they don’t look right. Purposely, she was changing the question to something else, to mislead me really, by saying that they were the same width and so on. After a few minutes conversation, I decided I had enough and I just left to go home.

    On a number of occasions, she would ask me, why do you come here if you don’t trust me? Why you don’t sit on the chair? (I did not expect her to know perfect English but this is simply just bad manners). When I made another appointment and pointed out that I was unhappy with her work (the crown), her answer was: it’s not my problem, She asked me whether I would wish to have my gums cut so that the height of the teeth would match, and at that time I said “NO”. At a later appointment I said to Dr Obeid that maybe it would have been a good idea if she had temporarily fitted the bridge first so that I could get a feel as to how it fits in my mouth. Her answer was that in my particular case she decided not to because I did not like sitting on the chair. Again, please note, she likes to take a lot of x-rays. The reason she wants to do that, is to check if her work is o.k. otherwise she said it wouldn’t be her responsibility, should I have a problem later on.

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