Mellowing Out, Skyscrapers, And City Lights

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.

A glimpse of Al Faisaliah Hotel and Tower that received three awards (Best 5-Star Hotel, Best Hotel Spa, and Best Fine Dining Restaurant [Globe Restaurant]) at the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards 2015. The awards honor the finest achievements in the travel and tourism industry throughout the country.


Al Faisaliah Hotel boasts ancient Middle Eastern tradition and modern sophistication. It is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World — which is one of the largest luxury hotel collections with more than 400 hotels in 80 countries according to Arab News.

“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” (

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” (

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:,, and

PS: GE X5 and Agfa Photo Eclipse Explorer

12 Comments Add yours

  1. cocomino says:

    Nice post. I didn’t imagine that there are such interesting buildings. 🙂


  2. Iñigo says:

    Wow that was very tall, and the designs are unique. My dad said that he’s been there as he worked there in Riyadh before. Thanks for sharing these amazing photographs.


  3. That is a funky looking building… interesting facts about it that I didn’t know before. Thanks for sharing and as always hope all is well 🙂


  4. Northern Narratives says:

    Your photos are awesome 🙂


  5. willofheart says:

    very interesting and educational post, I love u’re photo, incredible shots…


  6. eof737 says:

    Pretty impressive with spectacular views… How was the air at the top? Thin? 😉


  7. You have the best travel photos I have seen around the blog scene. You are very fortunate to have the ability to be exposed to these wonders. Count yourself as the # 1 travel photographer. I give thee this award. I gave myself the honor of giving it to you. LOL
    WOW – all that magestic beauty and then bowling. Go figure….!!! Hope you had a few strikes and a big score. My highest score has been 95. I think bowling is a fun and frustrating game. No matter how hard I try my score stays about the same. BUT – it’s worth it because everyone always has a good time.
    Nice post – glad I was able to get one of your posts again in my e-mail box again. Nice visiting with you, Sony.


  8. Paula O says:

    Wheeew Sonyboy, Great man-made structures they have there!


  9. Nandini says:

    Such an interesting building! 🙂


  10. polgocit says:

    Really would like to go to Saudia Arabia one day but I heard it’s impossible to get a Tourist visa. If you have some info about how I could visit the country , write me.


    1. Hi, Pol. My heartfelt apologies for replying to you this late.

      Regarding your inquiry, the answer is “No”. At this point, there’s hope though that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will soon grant the issuance of tourist visas. This is supported by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naye’s announcement in April last year that said endeavor is part of KSA’s Vision 2030, which aims to diversify Saudi economy where the amplification of the tourism sector plays a big part.

      Liked by 1 person

Feedback is most welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s