vfyw_2-1

A reader takes in the scene:

Subtropical climate? Check. No snow? Check. Lots of unfinished construction? Check. Gotta be Sochi.

Another disagrees:

A smoggy city somewhere in the Northern hemisphere where they are building things. I might be mistaken. There are palm-like trees, so it could be Rio and the World Cup venue. Building is not far enough along to be Sochi, since it is around the corner.

Another is unimpressed:

Could this be a desolate part of Salmiya, Kuwait? It’s so hideous it could be well be true.

Another gets dreary:

We humans sure have made this a fugly world, haven’t we? Everything looks like San Jose to me. Or China somewhere.

Another:

Dakar, Senegal. My husband who is from there, assures me it is not but the landscape and huge construction projects are so evocative of Dakar to me that I had to lob in the guess anyway. Otherwise, it must be somewhere close by in West Africa.

Another:

You had me stumped on this one at first, but then I recognized the Marriott in the background – clearly the McMurdo Station Marriott, Antarctica. Seriously, I’m stumped beyond belief on this one. I know there’s a clue in there that gives it away, but three hours of looking hasn’t turned it up. Bravo, a real puzzler this week!

Another:

Yep, harder this week.

I haven’t spent nearly anytime in this part of the world and can’t do a big search, but this feels like a Gulf State. Bahrain’s Al Manamah suburbs seems like it might fit in terms of the mix of larger buildings and empty lots. I’m guessing near Sanibis because there is a cluster of hotels.

If my guess is close, I hope we’ll hear from someone about the island-state’s natural features. I remember meeting a British expat from Bahrain telling me that it has the most amazing marine and bird life, which seems pretty different from the city-scapes and endless sand that we typically associate with the place. And of course, he noted that everything was in trouble from climate change and encroaching development.

Another:

Tall brown building in the background appears to be the YAR Group building in Nicosia, Cyprus. I am guessing the picture was taken on top floor of Kolan British Hospital in Northern Sector of Nicosia, Cyprus.

Another:

My new year resolution is to guess each week. Looks like the sand and building styles of the United Arab Emirates. I’ll guess Abu Dhabi.

Indeed, the UAE was a popular guess this week:

The vegetation, as well as what appear to be water tanks on most of the buildings, suggest a desert location. If I were to take an educated guess, I’d say it’s somewhere in the Gulf. If I were to take a slightly less educated guess, I’d say that the cityscape doesn’t look developed enough to be Kuwait, Manama, Doha, or any of the top-tier cities in the Emirates. So for what amounts to a completely uneducated guess, I’ll say it’s Fujairah, UAE.

Another:

This was a tough one. Palms and aridness indicate somewhere hot in the winter, new construction indicates somewhere prosperous. Arabian Peninsula? The distant skyscraper is the best clue and it looks a lot like Al Dana Tower, in Sharjah UAE. The water tower in the photo’s center is also possibly identifiable on satellite imagery, and using those points narrows it down to University City (Al Talah, Rifa’a, Al Turrfa, Al Darari, Al Shehba, Al Khezammia). See attached map:

bing_sat

These neighborhoods have the right look: gated drives and lots of construction sites and open lots. As much as I scoured the area, however, I couldn’t find the building! Worth a shot.

Another looks elsewhere in the Middle East:

I searched the skyscraper.com database, but that tall building doesn’t show up. So I did a Google on “tall buildings in xxx” and went through all the Middle Eastern countries, other than Israel(given the Arabic-like script).

The closest I came to with a similar building is in Tehran. 6484806There are two towers at these coordinates: 35 45′ 48.00″ N 51° 22′ 25.84″ E that sort of resemble the one in the photo, but thanks to massive economic and political sanctions and highly suspicious Iranians, there’s no Google Street View to confirm. I don’t even know what those buildings are. The image I found here [also to the right] is similar to the one in the photo, which gave me a starting point. I searched all the nearby hotels on TripAdvisor (which is becoming a resource for resolve these images) and found nothing that has this building or the roof of the building next door.

Therefore, I had to guess at a hotel. Since Tehran has mountains, I had to presume that the hotel backed up against the range. Without doing geometric tricks, I’m going to guess that the photographer was staying at: The Azadi Grand Hotel on Dr. Chamran Express Way, Evin Cross Road, Tehran. I can’t even guess a room number, I’m just shooting for closeness points this time. How close did I come?

Another gets the right country:

Wild guess this week – Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Another reader’s spouse helps out:

“That looks like Saudi Arabia” said my wife, after about two seconds. Since she lived there for nine months, and is always right about these things, that’s where we went searching. The wiki list of tall buildings in Saudi Arabia is not very long, and the ninth one, the Dhahran Tower, has distinctive vertical lines on it, just like the one in the view! A bit of google earthing later (the striped building to the right helped), and we arrive at:

The Park Inn by Radisson Al Khobar Hotel
Al Rawabi District,
King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Road,
Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia

The view is out of one of the back windows, fairly high up, so we’ll guess room 518. Here’s hoping this week was harder than last! In case this helps on a tie-breaker, my wife was working as an English teacher in Al-Ahsa, just down the road from Khobar, when I proposed to her, on her 28th (and my 30th) birthday, while we were on holiday in Morocco!

Every other reader who guessed Saudi Arabia also correctly guessed The Park Inn:

vfyw-khobar

This looks like the desert, and the writing on the white sign in the lower-left looks Arabic, so we’re likely somewhere in the Middle East. However, no mosques in sight! That made me think of Western compounds in Saudi Arabia, so I looked at the center of the Saudi oil industry, Dhahran. Fortunately I came across the Suwaiket Tower in nearby Khobar, which looks a lot like the tall building in this picture. By matching up a few other landmarks on Google Maps satellite view, such as the white-and-black Patchi building and the L-1 Suwaikit compound in the middle, I was able to figure out that this week’s view is taken from the Park Inn by Radisson Al-Khobar, King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz Rd, Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Attached is a diagram of the viewpoint. I can’t find a picture of that side of the hotel to pick out the specific window, but I guess it’s taken from the fifth floor.

The Grand Champion confirms:

VFYW-Khobar-View-with-Insets---Copy

This week’s view comes from Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The picture was taken from roughly the fifth floor of the Park Inn by Radisson hotel and looks northwest along a heading of 324.61 degrees towards the Al Suwaiket Tower in the distance on the left.

This one almost didn’t happen. Between the Super Bowl and showing guests around town this weekend, I had no real time to work on it until Monday night. Luckily the view was chock-a-block with clues (almost too many) and one last push proved successful.

Another nails the right floor:

You promised a harder contest, but I think this was as easy as last week! Here was how I found it:

The construction sign looked vaguely Arabic, so I searched for “tallest buildings in Saudi Arabia.” Among those was Dhahran tower, and it looked very similar to the hazy skyscraper; using the nearby, shorter buildings in the horizon, I was able to figure out that the vantage point direction was towards the northwest. Suspecting a hotel, I quickly saw the Radisson on Googlemaps – with the obvious rooftop plan of the foreground building, and nearby foliage! Another giveaway: the tan building with the conspicuous fire escape, to the north.

All in all, about 15 min. The hotel address is King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz Rd, Khobar Saudi Arabia. I suppose you’ll get a lot of correct entries, so the deciding factor is room floor and number – I have no idea how to pinpoint that. Since there are 5 floors, and thinking they are using the European storey system, I am guessing top floor (4th) – how about, oh, 420?

Heh. It’s actually 434, per the photo submitter. Since nobody guessed that room number, this week’s prize goes to the most active correct guesser of a difficult contest who’s never won before. His enthusiastic entry:

A-ha! This is my FOURTH time getting the exact right location (if you include the Cebu, Philippines one, which apparently everyone and their mother got right as well). God, I want that book so bad I can taste it …

Anyway, the first clue was the sign in front of the construction project in the vacant lot, center left. It wasn’t possible to read the letters when I zoomed in, but it was clear enough that the script was Arabic. Google image searches of rooftops in Arab countries indicate the water tanks are a type common in Saudi Arabia, made by a company called Polycon. So I figured we are likely in Saudi Arabia.

Next major clue was the very tall, lone building in the background of our photo: tall enough that it is likely among the tallest in its region, lonely enough that it is likely in a small-ish city. Among the 10 tallest buildings in Saudi Arabia, Wikipedia lists only one in the mid-sized city of Khobar – the Dhahran Tower. I Google imaged it, and it looked about right, though the tower in our image is just hazy enough that I couldn’t be sure yet.

From there, it was a matter of using Google Earth to figure out the proper orientation relative to Dhahran Tower, and then working my way back from landmark to landmark until I got to our vantage point. The real a-ha moment was when I recognized the Patchi building, just east of Dhahran Tower, confirming that it was indeed the Dhahran/Khobar area and allowing me to triangulate the precise location.

guess-with-red-writing

The photo was taken from the Radisson Park Inn Al Khobar, in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, from a north-facing window on approximately the sixth floor.

Please say I won, please say I won, please say I won …

(Archive)