Hotel Insider: InterContinental Dar Al Iman Madinah offers luxury next to Prophet’s Mosque

A comfortable and accessible option for those visiting one of Islam's holiest sites

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Travelling to the Saudi city of Madinah often involves visits to the Prophet's Mosque.

And the InterContinental Dar Al Iman Madinah is one of the city's most popular options for pilgrims, thanks to its direct access to one of the hallowed site’s main entry gates.

The seasoned establishment is also a haven from the perennially crowded thoroughfares lining the mosque and offers dining options in an elegant setting.

The National checked into a Classic Room to see what’s on offer.

The welcome

A taxi ride from Madinah's Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport took 35 minutes at a cost of approximately 65 Saudi riyals ($17). Upon arriving at the hotel, there's an obvious high security presence with taxis accessing the front gates only after stopping and being waved through a checkpoint.

Friendly staff are on hand to relive our bags and in the busy yet spacious lobby, I'm handed a cooling white facial towel. First impressions offer glimpses of the stately dark mahogany and creamy marble that dominates the building.

The check-in process is relatively swift and before long I'm in the lift to the sixth floor with a member of the concierge team on hand to guide me to my room and explain its various features.

The neighbourhood

The entrance to InterContinental Dar Al Iman faces the heart of Musab bin Umair Road, a busy commercial strip with plenty of hotels and fast-food outlets. The back gates, accessible through a spacious corridor in the lobby and overlooking one of the Prophet’s Mosque gates, provides immediate access to the holy site.

A blend of the spiritual and worldly is on display with pilgrims, often men dressed in white, interacting with the local shopkeepers who are on hand round-the-clock selling everything from jewellery to exotic rugs.

Whenever the melodious adhan rings from the mosque's speakers, trade is immediately suspended. It resumes after the prayer is concluded.

A 24-hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus station is beside the hotel for those looking to tour the city's other religious sites including Masjid Qutba, the Uhud Battlefield and Al Hijaz Railway Station. Tickets are $22 per adult, and buses leave every 90 minutes.

The room

The hotel is spread over 13 floors. I am on the sixth level and my Classic Room offers a partial view of the Prophet's Mosque. At 25 square metres, the room is cosy enough and fit for purpose.

Earthy tones abound with sandy coloured carpets and a wood and grey headboard. A lovely feature is the arched window with its wooden carved geometric patterns, typical in Islamic art. It's a nice place to take in the sights of the side streets teeming with sellers, shoppers and worshippers.

The bed is sizeable and comfortable, while the study desk – facing a mounted television – provides a good working space complete with multi-adaptor sockets. The complimentary minibar with orange juice, water and soft drinks is a nice touch.

In the corner is a comfortable reading chair and side table, while a copy of the Quran and a prayer mat are found inside the bedside table and cupboard. Unlike hotels surrounding the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the InterContinental Dar Al Iman doesn't have internal speakers broadcasting the call to prayer live from the Prophet's Mosque. However, the adhan can be heard loud and clear throughout the day.

The service

Staff are well-drilled and courteous and it's obvious that they're used to working with a vast array of international visitors, as well as accommodating sudden rushes as guests make their way to and from prayers at the mosque. They are also helpful at providing tips on how best to navigate the crowds at the Prophet’s Mosque.

The scene

Opened in 2008, the hotel exudes old-world charm. The hallways leading to rooms and suites remind me of the interiors of a luxury cruise ship with vast blue carpets, various couches and wooden furnishings.

The hotel has two small cafes, including Taiba Cafe on the mezzanine level, where you can get coffee, tea and juices and pastries. On the ground floor, close to the gates leading to the Prophet's Mosque, is a pop-up tea lounge serving a range of blends and iced teas.

Due to its proximity to the mosque and more conservative clientele, the hotel does not have a swimming pool. The ground floor has a variety of outlets selling convenient items such as prayer garments, mats, spiritual literature and prayer beads.

The food

The in-house Rotana restaurant is the only dining option for all main meals. It does an impressive job of serving its eclectic clientele with Middle Eastern, international and South-East Asian food stations.

With most visitors preferring to spend the rest of the day in worship at the Prophet’s Mosque or touring the surrounding religious sites, breakfast is the busiest service. The culinary options every morning are vast, ranging from standard omelettes and Levant staples such as foul and falafels, to various curries and noodles.

Other dining options are on the doorstep of the hotel, with plenty of popular fast-food outlets and tea houses selling piping hot parathas and karak chai for five Saudi riyals.

Highs and lows

The ability to attend all five prayers at the Prophet's Mosque with minimal fuss is worth the stay alone.

The lack of a gym is a disappointment, considering the stature of the hotel.

The insider tip

With the hotel perennially busy and with most visitors sharing the same aim of visiting the Prophet’s Mosque, it is best to head to the site half an hour before the call to prayer to avoid the long waiting times and to find an ideal spot inside the crowded prayer hall.

The best time to have breakfast is between 8am and 9am, after the rush of diners post the early morning fajr prayer.

The verdict

An ideal choice for those seeking accessibility and extra comfort when visiting the Prophet's Mosque.

The bottom line

Room-only prices start at $290, excluding taxes; check-in from 3pm, checkout until noon;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future

Updated: June 11, 2024, 7:08 AM