<La Vie Tang>The ‘Manhattan’ to be Expected on the Arabian Peninsula

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I left the coastal city Jeddah for Riyadh, and to embrace the next destination of my Saudi Arabian trip.

Riyadh, another miracle shining on the Middle-east desert.

The Oasis City

It lies just right in the central part of Saudi Arabia, on the large plateau with an elevation of approximately 600 meters, around 900 kilometers to the Red Sea on the side and 300 kilometers to the Persian Gulf on the other. In Arabic, Riyadh means garden. It is an expanse of oasis shining on the center of the desert in the Arabian Peninsula, though originally it had once been a small town occupying an area of less than one square meters. Abundant in water resource and grass, flourishing with plants, it has become a trade hub and the necessary pass for camel travelling merchants. This place where Arab nomads live and farm livestock has provided a promising land for generations and has increasingly expanded, and now eventually developed into the capital and the largest city of Saudi Arabia, with a population of more than 4 million.

Since 1930s, the discovery of oil has become the driver of its rapid development. Thanks to decades of great governmental efforts in urban construction, the former little desert town has leapt into a commercial, economic and transportation networking metropolis on the Arabian Peninsula, an essential transit point between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. For Muslims, it is the transfer station to the holy city by land during annual pilgrimage. The network of road and railway ramifies all directions to neighbor countries on the peninsula, enabling its great accessibility. In addition, this large-scaled airport, King Khalid International Airport, consists of four modernly-equipped terminal buildings in line with international standards.

Today’s Riyadh has taken on a completely new outlook through times.

An Oasis city as it is, Riyadh has a typical tropical desert climate, which is characterized by hot and dry weather conditions, and the summer temperature can reach more than 50 degrees. By a stroke of luck, I chose another tourist season at the end of November, the climate of which is much milder, the daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 degrees, so as not to be exposed to the scorching sun that spoiled the fun of travel.

The distance of approximately 35 kilometers from the airport to the city center could only see a vast area of barren land filling with a boundless expanse of desert, the landscape of which could not compare with the pleasant spectacle of Jeddah. An extra sense of desolation fulfilled my feeling of disappointment.

However, the city took on another appearance as soon as we drove into the urban area. The straight Olaya Street that enjoys great reputation is lined with high-rise buildings, as if these skyscrapers draw me into an open-air architectural expo center. 

Offshore Financial Centre

What excites me even more is the sight of a skyscraper that looks somewhat similar to the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Kingdom Center, and the landmark in Riyadh. The Kingdom Center towers above in the city center, with facilities such as multiple-purpose offices and shopping malls in addition to the hotel.

The Four Seasons Hotel I stayed is located in the Kingdom Center; the great accessibility offered me a favorable chance of visiting this 302-meter-tall skyscraper covering an area of more than 94,000 square meters. An arched opening is distinctively structured in the middle of the Kingdom Center, seemingly like a straight bottle opener from a far distance, the design of which is actually intended to protect the building from dust storm, strong wind and hot weather. At the same time, there is a scenic bridge as long as more than 60 meters stretching over the top of the Kingdom Center, where visitors can walk on the bridge and to enjoy the entire city view. An unconfirmed claim says someone had once flown a light aircraft to challenge high difficulties and managed to cross the Kingdom Center. In fact, the hole in the middle of the building is certainly huge enough for the light aircraft to cross.

On the scenic bridge, I could enjoy the panoramic city view from a height because of the vision as clear as the weather that day. Several straight streets orderly portion the urban area, a continuous row of houses densely dotted between lines. A background of buildings painted mainly in light brown, beige, light yellow and other colors of the same hue reflected dazzling light in the afternoon sun, so bright that I could hardly keep my eyes open. 

The city also boasts another 267-meter-tall building, second-ranked in height, called the Al Faisaliah Centre. The pyramid-designed building incorporates functions of hotel and shopping mall. It is known as ‘Globe’ because of the round, golden portion on the top. It’s another architectural masterpiece of Riyadh and stands opposite facing each other with the Kingdom Center.

The Saudi government is putting in intense efforts in accelerating its development into an offshore financial center, and a growing number of skyscrapers will change the outlook of this garden city into the ‘desert Manhattan’, the economic and financial center.

When the darkness falls, the entire city floats on an ocean of brilliant lights, in which these two giant skyscrapers with dazzling brightness dress up this future ‘desert Manhattan’ more bustling and prosperous.


Tang Yu Lap Hantec Honorary Chairman

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