Visitors to Riyadh will be familiar with the sight of the Al Faisaliah Tower ― the city’s first skyscraper that pierces the sky, its shard-like pyramid holding a large glass globe suspended high above the ground.
Fewer will know that at the base of the tower, connected by air-conditioned corridors, is one of Riyadh’s most prestigious properties ― the Al Faisaliah Hotel, run by Mandarin Oriental.
Perfectly located in the heart of Riyadh’s central Olaya district, the hotel provides a luxury service for business trips and tourists alike. The National checked in to see what's on offer.
The hotel is in the centre of Riyadh, about a 40-minute drive from the airport, depending on the city’s notorious traffic.
On arrival, my bags are immediately collected by friendly door staff, who welcome guests into a grand lobby buzzing with informal business meetings and chats over coffee.
The check-in process is smooth and swift. After being given my key, the concierge, Tariq-Hussein, guides me to my room, providing an important update to the cricket scores along the way.
In the room I am greeted with a handwritten note from Richard Johnson, the hotel’s general manager, along with a plate of complimentary fruit.
In case that isn't enough, shortly after decamping, an immaculately dressed man arrives with a plate of complimentary Arabic sweets and an ice-cold glass of juice. He introduces himself as Thilak, the on-call personal butler for the room, setting a high standard of service that characterises the rest of my stay.
Al Faisaliah Tower is one of the stand-out features on the Riyadh skyline and is surrounded by hotels, businesses and restaurants in the heart of the city.
Just off the King Fahd Road, the hotel is a perfect central base for visitors wanting to explore the sprawling city, which has welcomed an influx of visitors since it began its tourism drive several years ago.
Although Riyadh is not a pedestrian-friendly place, there are several restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the hotel, including excellent pizza at La Rustica. And that’s without mentioning the range of restaurants and shops included in the Al Faisaliah Tower complex itself.
My stay coincided with the Noor Riyadh festival ― an impressive array of light-themed artworks scattered across the city, including the Al Faisaliah Tower itself, which lit up the night sky each evening.
First-time visitors to the Saudi capital may also want to visit the historic district of Diriyah, go shopping in the newly inaugurated Riyadh Boulevard, or head out into the desert on a guided tour.
I am staying in a premium room with a king bed ― a deserving name, as the majestic bed swallows me.
The decor is fairly standard but well done, with welcoming light colours. It has a spacious bathroom with a walk-in shower and a large bath.
High-tech gadgetry controls everything you could need ― the bedside panel allows the guest to adjust the curtains, turn on various ambient lights and set alarms, all without leaving the comfort of the bed.
A walk-in wardrobe and in-room safe provide ample space for travellers needing to unload. The desk, coffee station and fast Wi-Fi make the room suitable for business trips.
If quality service is your thing, this is the hotel for you.
Each room comes with a personalised butler on call 24/7. From providing refreshments to organising suit pressing, giving restaurant recommendations and advising on fashion choices, the dedicated butler provided an excellent service.
The complimentary coffee, tea and water was restocked frequently, and the room was cleaned to an exemplary standard.
Staff throughout the hotel were always friendly and helpful too.
The hotel has a 16m indoor swimming pool with a spa bath, steam room and ice plunge pool. There is also a gym with a range of machines and weights.
Women can indulge in the exclusive ladies-only Al Faisaliah Spa, enjoying a relaxing session at the Golden hammam or an aromatherapy massage. While the mood lighting of the wellness centre gives it a relaxing ambience, an outdoor pool with the opportunity to catch some Riyadh rays would be an excellent addition and provide a hang-out space.
The hotel has a range of restaurants with diverse cuisines.
The star offering is The Globe, a spectacular dining experience high at the top of the Al Faisaliah Tower. Floating in a golden glass sphere resembling a giant disco ball, The Globe offers unparalleled panoramic views of the city.
We were welcomed to seats next to the window on a table adorned with a rose and a lamp, the lights of Riyadh at night sprawling out beneath us. The restaurant is pitched as "modern European" and offers a high-end global tasting menu ($230), a vegetarian menu ($84), and extensive options from the grill, as well as its standard a la carte menu.
The rib-eye steak ($154) was incredible ― 350g of tender beef in two cuts, served with an array of five garnishes. The lobster and truffle risotto ($107) was equally decadent, with high-quality ingredients bursting through.
Back down on earth, the other restaurants in the hotel also offer excellent quality. Breakfast is served at La Brasserie, with a wide-ranging buffet including dedicated acai, organic vegan and waffle and pancake stations, among others. There is also a diverse eggs menu ― the Moroccan shakshuka was superb.
Diners can also eat high-end Greek cuisine at Meraki, French-Mediterranean food at The LPM Restaurant, or Chinese dim sum at Yauachta. And for those staying in, the room-service menu is varied and vibrant ― the caprese salad was fresh and fruity.
Highs and lows
The first bite into the rib-eye steak at The Globe was a high in more ways than one.
The only disappointment would be that some elements of the wellness spa felt a bit neglected, especially the spa bath.
The Insider tip
Be ready for some vertigo-inducing views at The Globe ― looking down is not for the faint-hearted!
Al Faisaliah Hotel provides luxury service in the centre of Riyadh, making it a perfect base for high-end tourists and business visitors alike. The Globe restaurant is a highlight worth splashing out on.
The bottom line
Room rates start from $517 per night. Eating at The Globe involves a minimum consumption fee of $77.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.