Leuven four-star hotel closes doors for secret visit of Sultan of Oman

Leuven four-star hotel closes doors for secret visit of Sultan of Oman
The Fourth hotel, with restaurant Tafelrond. Credit: The Fourth

A four-star hotel in the very centre of Leuven has closed its doors to all bookings until the end of January, apparently to receive the Sultan of Oman, who is in the city for treatment at the Leuven University Hospital.

Hotel The Fourth stands on the Grote Markt in what used to be the local headquarters of the National Bank, beside the city hall and the St Peter’s church. The building also houses the starred restaurant Tafelrond of chef Kwinten De Paepe, which is also closed until the end of January.

The online booking forms for both hotel and restaurant show not a single room or table available for reservation from today until Saturday 1 February, including Christmas and the New Year, which is considered one of the busiest periods of the year for the hospitality industry.

On discovering the odd lack of rooms, De Tijd investigated, and found staff tight-lipped as to the reason. “We can’t take any bookings until the end of January,” said one, who declined to be identified. “Why? We’re not allowed to say.”

Further investigation, however, revealed that the reason for the closure to the public is a massive block-booking by the entourage of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman, part of the Arabian peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

The 79-year-old sultan is reported to be in Leuven for a lengthy treatment at the UZ Leuven, one of the most highly-reputed hospitals in the country. Details of the treatment are not available, although the state of the sultan’s health has been of concern for some time, according to reports.

Sultan Qaboos has been the absolute monarch of Oman since ousting his father in a coup in 1970. Two years later he took over the role of defence minister, and he now also holds the post of prime minister. He is now the longest-serving leader in the Middle East and Arab world.

In the meantime, the several hundred guests who had booked rooms at the hotel and tables at the restaurant will have to make alternative arrangements for the holiday period. So far the hotel has declined to comment on any aspect of the matter, including the possibility rejected guests will be compensated in any way.

The Fourth takes its name from its four-part history: first as a guild house, then as a theatre, then as a branch of the National Bank and finally as a hotel in the fourth incarnation of the building. The name of the restaurant, meanwhile – Round Table in English – refers to the round table of King Arthur and his knights, depicted in a bas-relief by artist Jan De Bruyne in the building.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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