Radisson Blu: Old-school charm in Riyadh’s center

Radisson Blu on King Abdulaziz Street is known for its Arabesque-style arches and bulky architecture. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Radisson Blu: Old-school charm in Riyadh’s center

  • What this hotel lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for with hospitality and great food 

DAMMAM: In sharp contrast to the Radisson group’s other properties in Riyadh, the Radisson Blu Hotel on King Abdulaziz Street in the heart of the city is one of the oldest hotels in Saudi Arabia’s capital. The 40-year old building in Al-Mubarakiah Plaza was taken over by Radisson in 2002 and it’s a colossal property, with 314 rooms and suites.

With its Arabesque-style arches and bulky architecture, you could easily mistake the hotel for one of the many ministries in the area — a possibility exacerbated by the unfortunate fine mesh grill that runs over the façade, including the windows of the rooms, and doesn’t leave much by way of a view. (There are, we’re told a few rooms that have the luxury of an unobstructed view, albeit one of government buildings.)




Andalusian-style Junior Suite features Andalusian-style arches and wood frames that act as a partition between the hall and bedroom suit. (Supplied)

Walking into the lobby, the hotel seems to be stuck in a time warp. A faux-floral arrangement in the center is gathering dust and the furniture looks outdated. But what the hotel lacks in aesthetics and décor, it makes up for with its staff — from reception to housekeeping they are accommodating, quick to help, and hospitable. 

We are welcomed warmly and check in to the Andalusian-style Junior Suite on the top floor. True to its name, the room features Andalusian-style arches and wood frames that act as a partition between the hall and bedroom suite; alcoves; intricate headboards; and a settee. Again, the furniture is bulky and archaic, but combined with the aforementioned touches, it has a certain old-world charm reminiscent of Andalusia or Casablanca. 




Some areas of the hotel have been renovated and the most notable revamp is on the seventh floor. (Supplied)

The bathroom is large, at least, featuring a tub and vanity area and a separate shower. But its, let’s say, ‘basic’ amenities and old fixtures aren’t particularly appealing. If you have the opportunity to stay in some of the hotel’s newer rooms and suites — the Scandinavian- or Italian-style rooms, we highly recommend those. 

Some areas of the hotel have been renovated and the most notable revamp is on the seventh floor, which features spacious rooms and suites that allow for more sunlight and are more contemporary in style and amenities. 

Its location means the hotel is favored by business travellers and government personnel; as a bonus, guests staying on the seventh floor have all-day access to an Executive Lounge and a Business Center. The hotel is also a favorite for corporate events and banquets (it has 13 conference rooms and an extravagant ballroom). 




Shogun is an in-house Japanese restaurant. (Supplied)

Breakfast at any Radisson Blu property has always been a pleasant experience — it is refreshing to see inclusive options like gluten-free, dairy alternatives, and a large offering of healthy food alongside the usual Arabic and English breakfast fare, and a made-to-order breakfast station. Breakfast is served in the Olivio restaurant, which boasts charming faux-Italian windows and intimate dining areas. It makes for a good start to the day. 

There is also a small rooftop terrace where guests can take their breakfast — ideal on a winter morning.

For lunch, we visited the in-house Japanese restaurant, Shogun, which has a small fish pond, a sushi bar, and Teppanyaki-style seating (around a table with a long metal grill on it). The restaurant is one of Riyadh’s most-popular for Asian cuisine, and with good reason. 




Shogun is one of Riyadh’s most-popular for Asian cuisine. (Supplied)

We started off with miso soup and moved on to a selection of meats — salmon, shrimp, chicken and beef — all prepared fresh at the table, and cooked according to our individual preferences. Shogun is well worth a visit — and we didn’t even try the ever-popular sushi bar.

The hotel’s other in-house restaurant is Brasserie on Four, which serves Pan-Arabian and global fusion.

If you are looking for a hotel that is accessible, affordable, and offers some historic charm — however you define that — then the Radisson Blu in Al Mubarakiah Plaza is certainly worth considering.


Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 21 September 2020

Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

  • Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books

JEDDAH: Jeddah’s rich and colorful past is riddled with events that can take a lifetime to tell, and which will soon be on display for all to see.

Situated on the western shores of the Kingdom, the city is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and ethnicities. Jeddah, “The Pearl of the Red Sea,” will soon have a museum in the heart of its historic district that will showcase the city’s story.
The Ministry of Culture (MoC) has announced that the Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will open to visitors at the end of 2022. The building’s location was historically known as Bab Al-Bunt port, connecting the residents of the Red Sea coast to the world, and a key gateway for pilgrims, merchants and tourists to the city.
The port also served as the departure point for Kingdom’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, when he sailed to Egypt to meet King Farouk 74 years ago.

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes used to cement them, with the walls dotted with the unique intricate woodwork balconies and windows known as “rowshan,” historically known to have been influenced by the Levant.
It is believed that the building was also named after one of Jeddah’s old gateways, dating back over 200 years.
The MoC announced that the museum will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books that tell the story of the building and city. It is seeking to celebrate the cultural value that the Red Sea coast represents, and the experiences of its residents, shedding light on stories of seafaring, trade, pilgrimage, diversity and other cultural elements that have shaped Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.

Saudi artist Dia Aziz Dia, one of the Kingdom’s pioneers of the arts told Arab News that Jeddah’s unique place in history was a story that could be told in many ways, but that showcasing it in a museum would be the right approach.

“Our placement and history must be placed in a museum because if it’s not placed now and studied properly to show to the world who we are, then all of our heritage could be lost in time,” Dia said.
He added that it is no easy task to reach international museum standards, as many of the items, paintings and artifacts will need special attention with highly skilled workers to ensure optimal preservation and display, fitting for a museum that will accommodate not only locals, but visitors from across the world.
The museum will house more than 100 creative artworks, hold about four temporary annual exhibitions, and offer educational programs for all age groups.

It will tell stories of woven cultures and traditions handed down throughout time — of east meeting west, openness, and centuries of progress.
“Whatever will be on display in the museum will show the history of the city and its special location in the world, because Jeddah is a gateway for all (pilgrims) arriving to head to Makkah and Madinah for Hajj (and Umrah),” said Dia. “At the same time, those who stayed in Jeddah throughout history, the mixing and diversity that resulted from that gives Jeddah its broad culture because the people are not from one category or one nationality, such as in other cities in the Kingdom.
The Red Sea Museum is part of the Quality of Life Vision Realization Program of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. It also comes under the umbrella of the Specialized Museums Initiative, part of the first package of the MoC’s range of initiatives.