The imposing new Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah is a guest palace that delivers luxury and excellence in service like no other
For many centuries, Jeddah has been famous as the gateway to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and western Arabia. While travelling along the Al Hamra corniche on the shoreline north of the old city, one can see the King Fahd Fountain, the highest waterspout in the world, dominating the city’s shoreline and the wondrous Red Sea beyond. The cascading spray of water is magical and almost like a delicately coloured veil.
Overlooking the fountain is The Ritz Carlton, Jeddah, which opened its doors in May this year. An elegant property that’s resplendent in its location facing the sea, it is the second Ritz-Carlton hotel in Saudi Arabia, adding to the one in Riyadh and reinforcing the brand’s presence in the kingdom.
There is simply nothing quite like The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah, in the city. Reflecting classical architecture, the multi-million-dollar property by the Al Hamra corniche covers eight acres of exquisitely landscaped prime land.
Within a few short months of its launch, the hotel has created great interest and quickly established a reputation as the ultimate in luxury and service excellence with its attention to detail and seamless hospitality.
A palatial hotel of superb craftsmanship, ambience and refined elegance for guests, business visitors, honeymooners or delegates, the new property is a work of art in its own right.
The impressive classical architecture is reminiscent of 18th century Versailles with the facades punctuated by graceful elements of Arab architecture. The impressive lobby with its imposing height, ornate columns and marble inlaid floor, is not intimidating. Rather, it is an area of intimacy and warmth with superb floral arrangements providing fragrances and aromatic scents in a welcoming area of calm and repose.
On arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport, guests are whisked by the hotel’s luxurious limousine service, and reach the property in 25 minutes to be greeted by welcoming doormen. There are separate areas serving coffee and juices as well as for seating in the stunning lobby.
The interiors are breathtaking with ornate hand-painted ceilings and fabrics covering the walls. The cascading crystal chandeliers and lanterns provide both light and shadow for privacy and a palatial atmosphere.
But despite its monumental scale, the property is warm and even homely. The ceilings are created in tasteful multi-layered elements in pastels of grey, red, gold and blue with intricate detailing. All rooms, the public area and restaurants combine elegance and style subtlety, using exotic fabrics, fine textures and colours appropriate for a palace.
The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah has 30 Royal Suites, 30 Executive Suites, 22 Club rooms and 142 Deluxe rooms, the majority of which face the sea, as well as a gentlemen’s fitness centre, extensive meeting and conference facilities. The three food and beverage outlets include the Reyhana, Saltz and Karamel restaurants.
The opulent sea-facing Royal Suites are one of the hotel’s unique selling points. Each suite covers an area of 500 sq m and has two separate living rooms, a balcony overlooking the famous Jeddah fountain, a full kitchen and a separate butler’s room.
The Club rooms and Club Executive suites provide access to the famous Ritz-Carlton Club level, offering snacks, breakfast, soft beverages and desserts.
Connected to the hotel is the convention centre, which can host both business and social events. At 83,000 sq ft, the venue can accommodate up to 1,500 guests and includes an amphitheatre, two grand ballrooms and 20 state-of-the-art meeting rooms.
Taking its name from the Arabic word for ‘basil’, Reyhana celebrates the diversity and splendour of world gastronomy within the inviting ambience of palatial all-day dining, including a live cooking station inspired by Western, Arabic, and Asian cuisines.
Saltz is a signature restaurant that pays homage to local fisheries and the bounty of the sea. Building off a selection of gourmet salts harvested from around the world including the Red Sea and selected by the restaurant’s selmelier and chef, the aptly named restaurant uses the dining staple to flavour fish, steak and other dishes that push the envelope in haute cuisine.
The Karamel lounge provides desserts, snacks and beverages, where one can relax and enjoy a conversation with family and friends and indulge in an array of sandwiches, scones and pastries complemented by a unique tea and coffee experience.
The male fitness centre offers three different treatments adjacent to a 24-hour gymnasium along with Jacuzzi, steam and sauna rooms. Rejuvenating Taif rose scents are integral to the spa experience.
SENSE OF IDENTITY
Jeddah, with its distinctive Arab character, is an historical city and famous as the port for Makkah and the gateway to Arabia from the Red Sea for travellers and caravanserai down the ages.
A city of contrasts, with its majestic interplay between the seascape and the cityscape, Jeddah is well known as the Bride of the Red Sea. It is also the arrival and assembly point for Muslims around the world making the Hajj pilgrimage.
The city provides a sense of identity and belonging to residents and visitors through its quality of architectural design and planning, innovative landscaping and beautification initiatives.
The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah resonates with this traditional warmth and hospitality and its outgoing Hejazi nature whilst being personable and private.
As the great Ibn Khaldoun said so many centuries ago: “The purpose of cities is to provide a place to build and give shelter. The craft of architecture is the first and oldest craft.”
Importantly, The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah embraces the city’s ancient roots with the new. The hotel is a splendid example of architecture gracing the city’s affinity with the sea with its impressive entrance via a gatehouse surrounded by fountains, palms and gardens.
Near the hotel is the Al Hamra Open Air Museum with four of Henry Moore’s bronze sculptures sitting in the open air in the context of sea and sky. Alongside are a host of international works emphasising the city’s global reputation, including contemporary art by Joan Miro, Ottmar Hollman and Cesar.
By reflecting classical architecture with Arab touches, the property further enhances Jeddah’s status as a city of art, public monuments and signature architecture.
Since the opening of the Jeddah property, guests have been treated to the brand’s legendary hospitality embodied in the company’s credo emanating from the founder Cesar Ritz, the celebrated ‘king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings’.
This legacy also embraces a century of service excellence, hospitality and gastronomic innovation underpinned by guest privacy, fabulous facilities and fine experiences.
The credo also embodies the motto and brand commitment of The Ritz-Carlton – “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” – which perfectly illustrates the culture of the property on delivering quality products and services consistently.
General Manager Bernard Viola is a veteran of the hospitality industry with more than 25 years of experience at the highest levels and is a passionate brand ambassador for the Jeddah property. Raised in Nice, Viola had his apprenticeship in food and beverage and moved to leading properties in Paris, and then to the US.
His career with The Ritz-Carlton has involved top positions at properties in Jamaica and Moscow. He was also the pre-opening Hotel Manager for The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo and assisted in the opening of two Ritz-Carlton properties in Beijing. After his Tokyo stint, Viola came to Bahrain in 2008 as the General Manager at the The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa before moving to Oman in his most recent position as General Manager of the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel, in Muscat.
Viola arrived in Jeddah in 2015 to orchestrate the opening of the Jeddah property. Working with the corporate team, expert trainers, and seconded Ritz-Carlton staff, he took a hands-on approach to building a culture of excellence.
“When I came over and saw the lobby of the hotel during the construction phase I was so impressed,” he says. “I was like a child in a candy shop and could see the potential for The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah. In addition to its prime location, there is the potential for further development with the land we have available for expansion. The proximity to the Al Hamra cultural area is also a great benefit.”
He continues: “This area around us will eventually be pedestrianised and we are in a fabulous location by the sea. We have ambitious plans to develop the property including an adjacent beach area for our guests, which will be very special.
“Since we opened our doors in May, the results have been beyond expectations. We have a fine team embodying service excellence and it is not simply a matter of warm hearts but our collective state of mind in delivering personal service. I trust my team implicitly and adopt a decentralised approach empowering our people, including many Saudis, looking to progress to leadership positions.”
Viola is rightly proud of his team of 650 plus drawn from 19 countries and he welcomes ambitious Saudis, ladies and gentlemen, to drive the business forward to meet the objectives of Vision 2030 in the hospitality sector.
“The hotel’s occupancy level is excellent,” he says. “We have a great deal to offer for tourism, business, delegations and conventions as well as weddings and special events. Our facilities are second to none and our location could not be better, close by to the historic Al-Balad district,” he says.
Public Relations Manager Diaa Makkawi is keen to emphasise the strength of The Ritz-Carlton culture and the importance of a meaningful and emotional engagement with guests.
“Every day at 8.30 am sharp we affirm our commitment to our corporate values, personal service and service excellence,” he says. “We look at who is arriving, the special initiatives shaping the daily routines and how we engage with our partners. We believe in empowerment, to create memorable experiences for our guests and anticipate their needs.”
“We believe in the service values of The Ritz-Carlton and are proud to be involved. Luxury lies in the details, so we leave nothing to chance. We always update the individual profiles of our guests, their tastes and preferences, and take our responsibilities very seriously,” concludes Makkawi.
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