Hey wait, did you know that the Burj Rafal Tower is already higher than the Kingdom Tower? According to this page in Wikipedia, The Makkah Clock Tower in Mecca is still the tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia at 601 meters (1,972 ft) but coming in second is the Burj Rafal Tower at 308 meters (1010 ft) and a close third is the Kingdom Tower at 302 meters (991 ft). For a long time Riyadhizen, it’s hard to wrap my brain around the idea that Kingdom Tower is no longer the highest building in Riyadh because we’re just so used to seeing it and knowing that it holds that distinction and that this tower along with Faisaliah Tower are the iconic emblems of the city’s skyline. I heard before that there is an ‘ordinance’ that no structure can be built that is higher than Kingdom Tower in Riyadh. So that’s not true eh? Well, times are changing and during my trip back to our house in Suleimania from an overpass in Khurais Road, several buildings are now emerging and are claiming their spot in Riyadh’s skyline. Wonder what these buildings are and what do they have inside them? Here’s a list of Riyadh’s new skyscrapers that are gracing the rapidly changing landscape of Saudi Arabia’s capital.
*cue Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper song in the background*
1. Burj Rafal Tower, 308 meters (1010 ft)
The Burj Rafal Tower has a total of 70 floors with 68 above the ground and 2 basement floors. Seventeen floors are part of the Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski, a five-star property that offers Arabic hospitality with European elegance. The body of this tower looks a bit like the Kingdom Tower but the top is different; instead of having a hole it opens up sideways like a tulip about to bloom. Apart from the hotel, the Burj Rafal Tower houses the Boutique Boulevard, an area that has selected luxurious retail brands with stylish cafes and restaurants like L’odore, Breitling, Pagani, Cavalli Cafe, Vera Wang, Azen Grill, and Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar.
2. Tamkeen Tower, 265 meters (869 feet)
Located in the north of King Fahd Road, Tamkeen Tower holds the distinction of being the seventh tallest building in Saudi Arabia and fourth in Riyadh. It has 65 floors catering to commercial and residential uses. You might be curious why this building was built so far from the city center… well you must remember that Riyadh is rapidly expanding and soon, this area might already be considered as part of the “center”. Also, it’s nearer the King Khaled International Airport. Anyway, this building looks so much like the Kingdom Tower, just without the hole. But when you see this building lit up, you’ll see that the light follows a pattern similar to the curves of the Kingdom Tower’s hole, only more elongated.
3. Nakheel Tower, 200 meters (656 feet)
It’s a bit easy to miss Nakheel Tower especially since it’s near the King Abdullah Financial District. Your eyes probably stay longer in KAFD than the surrounding areas. But Nakheel Tower catches attention when its lit up by a lightning-like zigzag lines that appears to cut the building in two. It also has an egg-shaped structure stuck on one of its sides. I’m not sure what this is for. Maybe like a viewing deck? Hehe. Anyway, Nakheel Tower is mostly for office use.
4. Olaya Tower 2, 180 meters (591 feet)
We’ve been gazing at the construction of the Olaya Towers whenever we eat in Centria Mall. We didn’t realize that time have passed so fast that they’re done! Finished construction! We thought it will be a condominium of some sort but these towers are mostly used for commercial purposes. Naturally, one of the towers is higher than the other one and that’s Olaya Tower 2 standing at 180 meters tall. Olaya Tower 1 is not far from behind though.
5. Burj Al Anoud, 155 meters (508 feet)
We were on an event one time when we met a Saudi lady who worked at the Alinma Bank office in Al Anoud Tower along King Fahd Road. We were chatting when I bursted a question that kept on nagging my mind, “The Alinma building looks gorgeous and unique but why was it designed like a fish’ head?” She laughed and said it’s not a fish head. It’s actually the sails of a yacht. What? Haha! Okay I researched a bit more and found out that they were shaped like two tapering bows that forms an abstract Islamic arch towards its apex. Goodness, I’m sorry for my mistake. Anyway the building has 20 floors and owned by the Princess Al Anoud Foundation. It houses the Alinma Bank Head Office and Novotel Hotel.
6. Moon Tower, 133 meters (436 feet)
This building is said to be influenced by the moon in Islamic culture. It is a “fusion of Islamic culture and international design standards”. It has 27 floors and situated along King Fahd Road. You might not be able to notice this building immediately; it’s more beautiful when it’s lit up at night and seen from afar. The design really shows better at night.
If you notice, even though they’re kilometers apart, most of these buildings are situated along King Fahd Road. I remember when I was still working for one of the magazines here in Riyadh that I was tasked to edit an article on walking paths in Riyadh and the author suggested walking along King Fahd Road to visit the King Fahd Library until Faisaliah Tower. If you look at it, King Fahd Road is a good walking path (of course stay in the sidewalks and use the pedestrian bridges… and walk when it’s already cool!). King Fahd Road is still one of the most popular highways in Riyadh that shows what this city is all about. It’s where the old meets the new; it’s the real garden where Riyadh bloomed and continuously blooms to this day.
As Saudi Arabia is poised to build the tallest building in the world in Jeddah, it’s essential to know what’s going on around us. Wait for the King Abdullah Financial District to finish and we’ll see some of the best designs in buildings, and some of them will tower over some of the buildings in this list too. These skyscrapers are important to have around, not only because they are signs of progress but they can also serve as markers for directions! Haha! Remember when it was only Kingdom Tower and Faisaliah Tower that served as landmarks? Well now, there are others and it’s so much better to give specific directions now. Let’s pretend for example that we don’t know where Centria Mall is. “Travel along Olaya Road and look for the twin towers. Opposite that is Centria Mall, the building that looks like a ship’s bow.” Yup, something like that. Haha!
For architects in Riyadh, what is your favorite building in the city? What do you consider a marvel in design and structure?
*Stop singing Skyscraper. You’ll have LSS for the day! Haha!*
***Featured image is taken by Mohammad Al-Deghaishm. You can check out his works at www.instagram/its_md.