both all of you who have followed this site for a few years know, I am a big fan of the Hotel of Doom (and really the entire country of North Korea. If you haven’t read the interview I did with an American who has travelled there, it’s well worth a read). Sadly, it seemed like Pyongyang’s most remarkable architectural achievement was going to waste away in eternity after the Soviet Union fell, forever crushing the soul of the already fragile North Korean psyche. But then a few years ago, an Egyptian company bought the building and picked construction back up where it left off. And now the building, well, it still looks like a weird ass spaceship, but with the glass put in, it looks kind of badass. But what of the interior? We had no way of knowing, since outside journalists weren’t allowed in and North Korean journalists aren’t particularly dependable.
But a journalist with the Daily Mirror snuck in recently and lived to tell about it. Well worth a read.
I step through a maze of scaffolding and set foot in what will be the lobby entrance. It is quite a disappointment. There is no marble or teak on view to match the brilliance of its exterior, no chandeliers or flunkies in gold braid. When the North Koreans first unveiled their preposterous plans, the Ryugyong Hotel was to have at least 3,000 guest rooms, five revolving restaurants, shops, a casino and eight revolving floors of luxury suites in its pinnacle. There is no sign of them here. In fact, there is no sign of anything at all.
I edge inside to find a cavernous space and walls of bare concrete – layer upon layer of grey concrete shell with scaffolding winding its way up through the vast space at the heart of the giant pyramid.
Where I can see dusty concrete and a tangle of rubble and wires, Kempinski are now promising shops, restaurants and a ballroom on the ground and mezzanine floors.
In the vertiginous space above, there will be 1,500 rooms – a smaller number than first planned – private apartments and business facilities. Even 1,500 rooms, it must be said, is enough to accommodate the total annual number of Western visitors to the country in a single night. It looks as though at least one of the revolving restaurants will survive. And, although the hotel has now been overtaken in height by the Rose Tower in Dubai, in terms of floors – with 105 – Ryugyong looks set to remain the world’s biggest.