Renovating Riyadh

April 7, 2014

1979 & today

I remember travelling across the world to the desert sands of Saudi Arabia in 1979.  We were starting to open hotels all over the world. With its rich culture and strong heritage, Saudi was the best place to plant our first flag in the Middle East.

The Riyadh Marriott Hotel opened its doors in 1980, and remains a flagship for us in this part of the world.  It holds a special place in my heart. It doesn’t seem that long ago standing there and looking at the model rendering. 

Before and after

When the hotel was built, Riyadh was a city on the move with a population of around 400,000.  There was a hotel shortage, but that was changing rapidly as the economy and population grew.  Our hotel became a catalyst for further investment and development.  A hub formed around the hotel bringing new life to the neighborhood. Today, the population of Riyadh is 5 million and the Riyadh Marriott Hotel is no longer an outpost, but sits in the heart of the city.

For the last year, our brand team has made a spectacular renovation.  It’s re-designed lobby has changed it into a place to hangout and work or play.  And the entire hotel really looks beautiful.

The Middle East and Africa region has always been challenging, but so much excitement, passion and adventure exists out there. We now have seven hotels in Saudi Arabia, and another seven opening by 2017.  I’ve travelled over there several times, and each time I learn something new about the people, and the places.  There’s so much more potential growth and so much more to discover.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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I was the Chief engineer at the Khurais Marriott in 1979 , where i proudly took a picture with the chairman when he visited the Hotel (will always remain in my family Album) and moved on as the Chief engineer to the Riyadh Marriott in 1981. His passion for his employees has remained at a very high level over my 27 years of enjoyable career with the company and i have met him at all the hotels i worked over the years. Bill Marriott understood the needs of the employees and always had a vision of growth for the future as he reminded us that if we take care of our employees and they will take care of our guests and they will come back . I love my beginnings at Riyadh Marriott and the people i worked for and with with over 4 years as the Chief engineer at this hotel. Thank you Bill for all of your contribution to this industry and I am proud to be a Marriott buff and will always remain.


We were the opening team, moved from Khurais Marriott 10 kms from Riyadh Marriott.

This is a prime example of Marriott having the knowledge and foresight to recognize a city's potential to explode, and having the courage to get in early. When they decided to make Riyadh their first location in the Middle-East, the city was a simple fraction of what it is today. Companies in hospitality and tourism that have the ability to recognize potential in growing markets are able to get in at the ground floor and build a reputation and establish their brand in the area as it grows. This blog post shows the personal ambition of Mr. Marriott and his connection to his different locations.

Thanks for the dreams Mr. Marriott. I would love to serve Marriott in this part of the world. Thank you for the exposure.


Thanks for the dreams Mr. Marriott.

Would love to see the Riyadh Marriott someday! Send from a SpringHill Suites in Eagan MN!

I have spent many happy times in the Riyadh Hotel. The staff were always friendly and willing to help

Dear Mr. Marriott -
I was right behind you - In 1982 I visited my family for six weeks in Riyadh. They were there with the US Treasury Dept. It was extremely exciting. I loved every minute, flying on my own to Dharahn and Jeddah as well. Our family ate at the Marriott - it was familiar. My family loved the culture, the importance placed on families, the food...and the mystique. My mother and sister had fabulous jobs there, and we attended a business luncheon for 1500 Saudi business women and friends. It was probably held at the Marriott also. Life comes full circle. Working here at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, I have met connections that I made in Riyadh 32 years ago. I love the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia. I would go back tomorrow if possible. I was treated like royalty, and I always take the opportunity to share my positive experiences I had there and in Bahrain. And I always think of Saudi when I see the shape of the crescent moon especially at dusk. It was my mother's favorite time of day. Being in Saudi Arabia then was like having one foot in the 20th century and one foot in the bibical era...and on Christmas day as we were driving to visit friends, there on the side of the road was a bedouin walking along side a donkey carrying a woman,dressed in her robes....and I couldn't but help exclaim, "Look! This is exactly what it looked like on Christmas! It wasn't pine trees covered in snow, and presents under the tree...." Thank you for reminding me of so many special memories. I look forward to visiting the Kingdom again soon, and visiting all the Marriotts and Ritz-Carltons.

Thank you Mr Marriott for keeping the Middle East in the news. As a former General Manager of this hotel I know how many great Associates still work there and have contributed to the properties sucess. Today the first General Manager Harry Bosschaart is helping us in St Thomas. Marriott really is a small world!