In a place where mountains and beaches are far from my wandering feet, I might as well savor the city’s wonders in spite of my body’s longing for hiking and swimming.
In the Philippines, what I usually do to unwind is to go hiking or hit the nearest beach. That said, cities have their unique wonders that can definitely serve as alternatives to the lush vegetation or the crystal blue waters that I used to gormandize on weekends.
On a humid afternoon of 02 August 2012, I gave in to a friend’s invitation to go bowling for the first time and visit the tallest building in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Gleaning from the photo, it’s obvious that I enjoyed bowling but nothing is more fulfilling for a traveler than to set foot on, more so capture photos of, historic and historical places such as Kingdom Tower and (eventually) Al Faisaliyah Center.
This unwinding trip gave me the chance to marvel at, not only one but, two of the most remarkable skyscrapers in KSA — Kingdom Tower and Al Faisaliyah Center. The latter is located just beside the bowling center so I did what I could to snap its pulchritude. It was only when I researched on the building’s facts that I learned about its significance.
Alfaisaliyah Center is a commercial skyscraper and ranks third in the tallest buildings of Saudi Arabia after Abraj Al Bait and Kingdom Center. Immediately below it is an outside viewing deck. At the ground level, there is a shopping center with major world brands. It stands about 267 meters high comprising 44 floors.
“The four corner beams of Al Faisaliyah Complex join at the top above a golden ball. The design is said to be based on that of a ballpoint pen. Inside the golden ball is a luxurious revolving restaurant. There is a clear view of Saudi Arabia’s other skyscraper, Kingdom Center, from Al Faisaliyah Center and the two buildings create a silhouetted skyline in the evening. The tower was designed by UK based architects Foster and Partners and engineers Buro Happold. It is part of an Al Faisaliyah Complex, which consists of a hotel, the tower, and two other buildings. The tower features several restaurants like Globe and also has a cigar lounge at the top floor” (wikipedia.com).
Bowling turned out to be so much fun and the imposed mall schedules for Ramadan period explains why we ended up realizing our visit to Kingdom Center at seven o’clock in the evening. That was an hour late for the supposed schedule. This is somewhat bad news for my 5MP camera without night mode. Hence, I needed to be resourceful to bring out something even just nearly beautiful as the photos I would have taken.
Good thing there are plenty of huge photos of the tower displayed along the hallway.
Facts say that Kingdom Center, popularly known as Kingdom Tower, is undoubtedly the tallest building in the city. Recently though, it became the the second tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, next to Abraj Al Bait which opened in 2012, boasting a height of 302.3 m (992 ft). Globally, it ranks fourth.
The center was built on 94,230 square meter land but the total built up area is 300,000 square meters. It is owned by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Taal, a prince of the Saudi Royal Family. This imperial tower contains a total of 99 floors and two basement levels. The total cost of the project was SAR 1,117 million or roughly US$ 400 million. It is standing on Al-Urubah Road between King Fahd Road and Olaya Road in the heart of Riyadh’s growing business district — Olaya.
The most noteworthy award of this stunning tower is the 2002 Emporis Skyscraper Award where it was selected as the “Best Skyscraper of the World for Design”.
Moreover, the five-level shopping center that fills the eastern tube of the building also won another major design award. Unfortunately, I was unable to dig what particular award that is.
One interesting feature of the tower is that the large opening turns red when filled by workers and its hue continuously change.
“Besides the shopping mall, Kingdom Tower contains the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh and state-of-the-art apartments. The 56 m (184 ft) long skybridge atop the skyscraper, at a height of 290.4 m (953 ft) top floor, contains a public observation deck and a view of the entire city of Riyadh. The ellipse motif taken from the tower’s footprint appears also in the light fixtures, ceiling panels, entrance canopy, wastebins, and furniture. Kingdom Center is in direct axis with Riyadh‘s other skyscraper Al Faisaliyah Center” (wikipedia.com).
Little did I know that there’s more to the city than what I already saw. I never appreciated the city streets and its lights till that day. The view atop the tower’s deck made me see how beautiful lights are. They are as mighty as the sun in changing the appearance of the place. Who could imagine that the business district of Riyadh can turn into a magical city like that of the proverbial North Pole.
Being on top of the Kingdom Tower is as life changing as being at the mountain’s summit. The world I once saw in the dark illuminated all more.
References: kingdomcentre.com, exploretheculturetrip.com, and wikipedia.com
PS: GE X5 and Agfa Photo Eclipse Explorer
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