Kingdom Center, Saudi Arabia *****

There are only two high-rise building in Riyadh, capital of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: The Al-Faisaliya Tower and Kingdom Center. The latter is the absolutely most beautiful building I’ve ever seen! You can also take an elevator to the top and enjoy an incredible view of Riyadh.

The building is plain awesome. You can’t help staring at it when you drive by. If you’re walking, your eyes keep getting diverted from whatever else you’re looking at to the organic shape set in concrete and glass...

Too poetic for you? If you ever get a chance to visit this building “live”, I guarantee it will have the same effect on you.

Some facts: the “Sky Bridge” (that’s the “handle bar” at the top) rises 297 meters above ground - it is 64 meters in length. The parabolic opening below it covers an area of 3,400 square meters. 200,000 people visit the Sky Bridge each year. The building looks just as spectacular at night; I’ll post a picture of it during my next visit to The Kingdom.

Hotel Al Khozama, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ***

This hotel came recommended by an ex-customer (customer at a previous place of employment), as it is very close to their office (in Faisaliah Tower). It was certainly a step up from the Sheraton I stayed at the first time I came to Riyadh, and until this last trip I have stayed at the Al Khozama every time I came here.

The hotel is, if not THE first hotel in the area, certainly one of the first. It has that “old hotel atmosphere”, which I find very attractive. Unfortunately, the rooms are very small (even if you book a business room) with a single bed. The bathrooms are in desperate need of renovation - though they are clean. I always paid 700 Rial for the room including breakfast. An airport pickup runs a very attractive 80 Rial.

Breakfast (which is very important to me) is excellent, with a good mixture of Arabic and Western foods. Sometimes (but not every time I stayed), eggs are made to order. The quality of food is superb.

The hotel is within a short walking distance to Faisaliah Mall, which offers a large food court - subsequently, I’ve never had lunch or dinner at the hotel. The hotel does offer two pools, one is an outside pool that has always been full of leaves or other debris every time I looked, the other is in the health club and is quite good for doing some laps (length is probably about 20m). The Gym, also in the health club, is pretty good, with a row of treadmills as well as some weight machines and free weights. The negative aspect: the health club is in a building that is part of the Faisaliah complex, i.e. across a (non-busy) road from the hotel.

Should you book the hotel, be sure to demand a room towards the rear. The hotel is right on __, which is very busy day and night and will - unless you’re used to heavy city traffic - keep you up at night.

The hotel is absolutely okay, but there are better ones to be had, at a lower price (for example: Hilton Garden Inn).

Internet access is free in the room (wired) and in the lounge (wireless).

Hilton Garden Inn, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ****

The hotel is located at the southern end of Olaya Street, conveniently within walking distance to our partner in Riyadh. Walking to the Olaya Computer Market or even Faisaliah Mall, for example, is no problem if it isn’t too hot out and you can deal with the kamikaze driving style popular in the city. There is a large supermarket one block down Olaya, as well as a few stores (luggage, home electronics) and several restaurants, other than that there isn’t much of interest around the hotel.

After staying at the Al Khozama Hotel in Riyadh for the last few visits to Saudi Arabia, I decided to try out the Hilton Garden Inn, as it came recommended by our partner here. The room rate is 500 Rial (plus tax) compared to the 700 Rial I’ve always paid at the Al Khozama, however the latter includes breakfast which costs 98 Rial at the Hilton (including tax), so it is not that much less expensive in total.

The rooms at the Hilton are larger and more comfortable than at the Al Khozama, as well as newer - no doubt. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to test the gym, but as it is in the hotel (at the Al Khozama it is in a different building that is part of the Khozama complex), it is much more conveniently located.

I only had breakfast at the hotel, so I can’t say anything about the quality of the food they serve for lunch or dinner, but breakfast was very good. Excellent mixture of Arabic and Western foods with eggs made to order, as well as a waffle iron with portioned dough for guest use. Superb collection of fruit juices and fresh fruit of different types. It certainly isn’t a “steal” at 98 Rial, but - compared to some of the breakfasts I’ve had in hotels - certainly worth the money.

The rooms are comfortable, two floors of non-smoking rooms are available. Even though I had explicitly requested confirmation of a non-smoking room reservation, I was at first given a smoking room. Luckily, the hotel wasn’t full so that I was able to change it without problems.

One negative experience was the airport pickup: I had ordered a car, which, at 120 Rial, is much more expensive even than at the Al Khozama (they charge 80 Rial). The driver was there with a sign, waiting for me. However, I wasn’t the only one he was waiting for - he asked me to wait and then got back in front of the arrivals exit to wait for another person from my flight. After about 25 minutes, two other gentlemen that had seen the sign and were also staying at the Hilton asked him if he could take them with him to the hotel. The end of the story was that there were three of us in a minibus, with my account being charged for the ride.
I mentioned the affair to our partner who immediately had the office manager file a complaint. In the end, my account was credited for the pickup.

Internet access is free in the room.