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Dhahran City Profile



Dhahran City Profile

Eastern Province
Industries & Ports
Aramco & Oil
Aramco Chronograph
Aramco Today
What to see



Dhahran is located 6 miles (10 km) west of Khobar. Dhahran, with Dammam and Al Khobar, forms the Dammam Area. The eastern province is a flat desert plain with a width of 80 km and a length of 1200km, covering a distance from the north of the Kuwaiti border to the Rub'Al Khali in the south which is the largest desert in the world.


The eastern province sprawls over an area of 778,500 square kilometers, constituting 36% of the kingdom. It borders Kuwait to the north, Bahrain and Qatar to the east and UAE and Oman to the south.


Daytime temperatures from Apr to Oct regularly rise above 40 C with a fair degree of humidity, especially in August and September. In winter (December and January) temperatures drop to around 18 C during the day and 10 C at night. Rainfall is negligible all year round.

Eastern Province

The eastern province's main cities including Dammam Al-Khobar, Dhahran, Qatif, Saihat, Safwa, Rahima, Jubail, Sefania, Khafji, Ras Tanura and Hofuf are linked by a modern network of highways built with the latest technologies as well as a modern railway which carries goods and passengers to/from Dammam to Riyadh.

Dhahran was the site of the headquarters of what was Aramco (the Arabian American Oil Company). For obvious reasons, it is also the site of the King Fahd Petroleum and Minerals University.

International Airport

Dhahran is served by one of the Kingdom's three international airports, a construction of outstanding architectural beauty which combines traditional Islamic design with the most modern building technology. Dhahran International airport is situated between Dammam and AI Khobar. A new International Airport closer to Jubail is due to open in the near future.



The city of Dammam has two industrial areas which play host to a number of factories, companies, establishments and producing various light and heavy industrial items.

The greatest parts of basic industry products are exported to various countries in the world, due to the increasing investments made by the foreign companies in this sector, the Saudi Basic Industries' Co. "SABIC", the parent company of all companies producing petrochemicals, chemical fertilizers, industrial gases, steel and iron, increased the capacity of its companies through the expansion of factories and development of production methods. These steps were taken in response to the policy of the government of Saudi Arabia aiming at introducing and developing non-oil economic industries.


Ports based in both Dammam and Jubail have been developed to the extent that Dammam based King AbdulAziz Port serving the commercial and industrial sectors became one of the largest ports in the Arabian Gulf.

Nevertheless, the eastern province has several attractive amusement parks in the cities and on the coastal road, the commercial and residential complexes, the international restaurants introducing international cuisines became very popular with the neighboring countries.

All this truly reveals the eastern province's standing which is the outcome of inspiration from traditions of past, an affirmation of its present position and forecasting the future.


Oil: Historical Background and ARAMCO


bulletThe history of oil in the Middle East and the Arab world goes back many centuries during which seepages of oil and tar were used for a multitude of purposes. A mission of German experts in 1871 (1288 AH) visited Iraq and reported plentiful supplies of oil. In 1907 (1324/25 AH), another mission said Iraq was a veritable 'lake of petroleum'. In Iran, oil was found in quantity in 1908 (1325/26 AH). The major Iraqi field was discovered at Kirkuk in 1927 (1345/46 AH) and began producing oil in commercial quantities; oil flowed abroad in 1934 (1352/53 AH). In 1932 (1350/51 AH), petroleum was discovered in Bahrain.

bulletIn 1923 (1341/42 AH), a New Zealander, Major Frank Holmes, acting on behalf of a British syndicate, the "Eastern and General", obtained the first Saudi Arabian oil concession from King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), an exclusive concession to explore for oil and other minerals in an area of more than 30,000 square miles in the Eastern Region.

bulletThe concession, at a bargain price of 2,000 pounds sterling per annum to be paid in gold, came to nothing. The Eastern and General Syndicate were unable to persuade any oil company to invest sufficient funds for exploration and, after paying the 2,000 pounds sterling for two years, they ceased to fulfill their part of the agreement.

bulletIn 1930 (1348/49 AH), King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) was faced with a substantial fall in revenues, resulting from a drop in the number of pilgrims caused by the world-wide recession.

bulletThe King invited a wealthy American businessman and philanthropist, Charles R. Crane, to visit the Kingdom. Crane had already shown an eagerness to meet the King. In the course of Crane's visit, it was agreed that he should send a mining engineer to conduct a survey of Saudi Arabia to assess the Kingdom's water, mineral and oil resources.

bulletIn 1931 (1349/50 AH), the engineer, Karl Twitchell, arrived in Jiddah. Twitchell was a civil and mining engineer, with Middle East experience, having worked for Crane in the Yemen. After an extensive survey of many months, Twitchell submitted his report to the King. A key finding was that the geological formations in eastern region around Dhahran strongly indicated the presence of oil.

bulletWhile Twitchell's survey was proceeding, Socal, the Standard Oil Company of California, which had sent two geologists to Bahrain, was becoming increasingly interested in the oil potential of the mainland of Saudi Arabia.

bulletIn 1933 (1351/52 AH), Twitchell arrived in Jiddah with a Socal representative, Lloyd Hamilton. Despite some impressive competition from the Iraq Petroleum Company, Hamilton succeeded in negotiating a concession for exclusive rights to oil in the eastern region.

bulletThe agreement which had a 60-year life (later to be extended for a further six years), received royal assent in July, 1933 (1352 AH). Thus, the Kingdom broke what had been virtually a British monopoly of oil concessions in that part of the world.

bulletInitial exploration produced disappointing results but in 1935 (1353/54 AH) a well drilled in Dhahran found indications of oil in commercial quantities. The following year, Socal, now operating through its subsidiary the Californian Arabian Standard Oil Company (Casoc), put into effect Article 32 of the 1933 (1351/52 AH) agreement and sold one-half of its concession interest to the Texas Oil Company. Oil production began in 1938 (1356/57 AH), by which time the vast extent of the oil reserves was becoming apparent.

bulletWith this confirmation of the commercial viability of the oil reserves, another supplementary agreement was signed on 31st May, 1938 (1357 AH), adding six years to the 60-year life of the original agreement. This second instrument, known as the Supplemental Agreement, enlarged Socal's concession area by almost 80,000 square miles. It also included rights in the Saudi government's half interest in the two neutral zones shared with Iraq and Kuwait.

bulletIn 1944 (1363/64 AH), the Californian Arabian Standard Oil Company was re-named the Arabian American Oil Company - Aramco.

bulletIn 1948 (1367/68 AH), Aramco invoked an Article of the Supplemental Agreement of 1939 (1357/58 AH) by selling a 30% interest to Standard Oil of New Jersey and a 10% interest to Socony Vacuum.

bulletThe redistributed ownership of Aramco was then Standard Oil of California (now known as California Standard) - 30%; Texas Oil Company (now known as Texaco) - 30%; Standard Oil of New Jersey (later known as Exxon) - 30%; and Socony Vacuum (later known as Mobil Oil) - the last 10%.

bullet(In 1998, Exxon and Mobil signed a definitive agreement to merge and form a new company called Exxon Mobil Corporation.)

bulletIt was inconceivable in the political and economic context of the second half of the twentieth century that so important a national resource as oil, representing as it did most of the country's national income, should remain under the ownership of foreign companies.

bulletIn 1973 (1392/93 AH), the Saudi Arabian government took a 25% stake in Aramco. In 1974 (1393/94 AH), this share was increased to 60% and in 1980 (1400/01 AH) it was amicably agreed that Aramco should become 100% Saudi-owned, with the date of ownership back-dated to 1976 (1396/97 AH).

bulletThe oil of the Kingdom which had lain for so long beneath Saudi Arabia's deserts and which then, for decades, had been exploited by foreign interests became at last a national resource controlled and managed by those under whose soil it lay.


This city is noted for housing the largest oil company in the world, the government-owned ARAMCO. King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals, a scientific and technological research center, is logically located here. Most of the city's 60,000 inhabitants are employed by the Airport, the University or ARAMCO. A minority are in business, which complements institutional activity.

History & Oil

Archeological studies proved that the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was inhabited for more than 5000 years ago. Cemeteries proved that many nations inhabited the area and engaged in trading activities for thousands of years ago.

Following the discovery of oil and gas, the province became an extremely important area in terms of attracting people to live and engage in economic activities, especially when it was discovered that the Eastern Province contains more than 25% of the world's resources while the reserve of the extractable crude oil totals 250 billion barrels.

Since the discovery of oil and gas which were internationally marketed, public and private sectors in all provinces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia witnessed tremendous development which made the eastern province an attractive commercial, industrial & populated area. Saudi Aramco which is fully owned by the government of Saudi Arabia runs all operations related to excavation, refinement and export of oil and gas, making Saudi Aramco the biggest oil company in the world.


Saudi Aramco: Summary Chronograph


bullet1933 - Saudi Arabia grants oil concession to California Arabian Standard Oil Company (Casoc), affiliate of Standard Oil of California (Socal, today's Chevron). Oil prospecting begins on Kingdom's east coast.

bullet1936 - Texas Company (now Texaco) acquires 50 percent interest in Socal's concession.

bullet1938 - Kingdom's first commercial oil field discovered at Dhahran. Crude is exported by barge to Bahrain.

bullet1939 - First tanker load of petroleum is exported.

bullet1944 - Casoc changes its name to Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).

bullet1945 - Ras Tanura Refinery begins operations.

bullet1948 - Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) and Socony-Vacuum Oil (now Mobil) join Socal and Texaco as owners of Aramco.

bullet1950 - 1,700-km Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (Tapline) is completed, linking Eastern Province oil fields to Lebanon and the Mediterranean.

bullet1956 - Aramco confirms scale of Ghawar and Safaniya, world's largest oil field and largest offshore field, respectively.

bullet1961 - Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - propane and butane - is first processed at Ras Tanura and shipped to customers.

bullet1966 - Tankers begin calling at "Sea Island", new offshore crude oil loading platform off Ras Tanura.

bullet1973 - Saudi Government acquires 25 percent interest in Aramco.

bullet1975 - Master Gas System project is launched.

bullet1980 - Saudi Government acquires 100 percent participation interest in Aramco, purchasing almost all of the company's assets.

bullet1981 - East-West Pipelines, built for Aramco natural gas liquids and crude oil, link Eastern Province fields with Yanbu on the Red Sea.

bullet1982 - Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center (EXPEC) opens in Dhahran.

bullet1984 - Company acquires its first four supertankers.

bullet1987 - East-West Crude Oil Pipeline expansion project is completed, boosting capacity to 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd).

bullet1988 - Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco, is established.

bullet1989 - High-quality oil and gas are discovered south of Riyadh - the first find outside original operating area.

bullet1991 - Company plays major role combating Gulf oil spill, the worlds largest.

bullet1992 - East-West Crude Oil Pipeline capacity is boosted to 5 million bpd. Saudi Aramco affiliate purchases 35 percent interest in SsangYong Oil Refining Company of the Republic of Korea.

bullet1993 - Saudi Aramco takes charge of Kingdom's domestic refining, marketing, distribution and joint-venture refining interests.

bullet1994 - Maximum sustained crude-oil production capacity is returned to 10 million bpd. Company acquires a 40 percent equity interest in Petron, largest refiner in the Philippines.

bullet1995 - Company completes a program to build 15 very large crude carriers. Saudi Aramco President and CEO Ali I. Al-Naimi is named the Kingdom's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

bulletSaudi Aramco Today
The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Saudi Aramco, is the world's largest oil producing company. Set up by Royal Decree in 1988, it assumed the duties of its predecessor, the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco). Saudi Aramco has its headquarters in Dhahran, on Saudi Arabia's east coast. The company controls almost all of the Kingdom's vast hydrocarbon enterprises. Saudi Aramco's mission, as an integrated international oil company, is to engage in all activities related to the oil industry on a commercial basis and for profit.
Saudi Arabia exports more crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) than any other country, almost all of it through Saudi Aramco facilities on the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea coasts.

bulletSaudi Aramco: Its Operations
Saudi Aramco explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas. The company has the capacity to produce up to 10 million barrels of crude oil per day on a sustained basis. It manufactures a wide range of petroleum products from oil and gas. It markets crude oil, gas and petroleum products domestically and internationally.
Saudi Aramco owns five refineries, at Ras Tanura, Riyadh, Jiddah, Rabigh and Yanbu. The company also has refining and marketing partnerships in Saudi Arabia (with Mobil in Yanbu and with Shell in Jubail), the United States (Star Enterprise, with Texaco), the Republic of Korea (with SsangYong Oil Refining Company) and the Philippines (with Petron Corporation). Saudi Aramco's shipping affiliate, Vela International Marine Limited, owns one of the world's largest and newest fleets of very large and ultra large crude oil tankers. Saudi Aramco also owns and operates Saudi Arabia's nationwide petroleum product-distribution network.
Saudi Aramco's operations are supported by affiliates and offices in countries around the world, including the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Singapore and Japan.

bulletSaudi Aramco: It's Role in the Kingdom
Saudi Aramco has concentrated on serving the communities in which it operates, as well as Saudi Arabia as a whole. The company has built 123 schools in the Eastern Province serving some 54,000 Saudi and other resident children. It helped develop the Eastern Province's electrical power grid and carried out other major infrastructure projects at the request of the Saudi Government.
Saudi Aramco is the single largest employer in Saudi Arabia outside the Government. The wages it pays and the goods and services it buys in the local market help fuel the regional and national economy. The company awards most of its contracts to fully Saudi-owned or joint-venture businesses. Saudi manufacturers and vendors have supplied nearly 90 percent of the material purchased by Saudi Aramco in recent years.
On the environmental front, Saudi Aramco closely monitors the effects of its operations on the ecological system of the Gulf and other areas of operation. It has developed a comprehensive plan for dealing with oil spills wherever they may occur. The company, which played an important role in containing the 1991 Gulf oil spill - the world's largest - employs the latest response technology and training methods.


Al Rashid Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in Saudi Arabia, with department stores such as Next, Royal Doulton, BHS, Oasis and Sony, so you can buy virtually anything you wish. Two new shopping malls have opened within 5 minutes walk of the Gulf Meridien Hotel. The Fouad Centre has fast food counters and mixed seating on the top floor and ground floor shops selling an admittedly limited range of clothing, jewellery and handbags. Al Jumah City Centre mall is good for buying carpets, clothing, jewelry and souvenirs. The Alissa Souk in Al Khobar sells linen, shoes and computer software. King Khalid St is famous for gold shops, while Prince Bader St or Ladies St is good for ladies clothing.

Where to walk

In the cooler weather and in the evening, the Corniche, fronting onto the Gulf, is a most attractive place to saunter and collect your thoughts, whether in Dammam or along the constructed pathways of Al Khobar. In certain places, there is access to the shore, which is sandy in parts. Bathing is not allowed, though fishing is popular.

Otherwise, the souk areas in Dammam or Al Khobar can prove exciting for their Islamic crafts and architecture. Mosques periodically interrupt the skyline; the most picturesque fronts the Corniche in Al Khobar. Art galleries displaying international and local work are in abundance. Ladies walking around should wear either the abaya or sensible clothing, e.g. very baggy trousers and baggy shirt with long sleeves. A Western woman does not need to cover her head, as she might have to in Riyadh or Jeddah.


What to see


bulletThe Saudi ARAMCO Exhibition Centre
This is the best museum in Saudi Arabia; a fascinating guide and orientation to the Kingdom's oil industry, explaining how the oil is brought up to the surface and how it is located in the first place - ironically the British failed to find oil when they were given the first license in this region. There are also displays on Arab science and technology.
The Well #7 is where oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in 1938. This is an attractive tourist site that showcases the beginning of Saudi Aramco's remarkable history.
The Rolling Hills Country Club inside the Saudi Aramco complex features a golf course of unusual design. It is sand, with oiled sand "greens" and oiled fairways. Golfers play off of a piece of Astroturf that they carry around with them. This provides the proper surface for the ball to be played from as they move around the course!

bulletHalf Moon Beach
Local companies have private beaches in this area up the coast, known as Half Moon Bay. The water is warm; around the beach are sand dunes and parked alongside are all-terrain vehicles that people ride up and down the dunes. It is worth a drive along the coast road, and there are public areas where you can stop. Quadpeds are very popular and there are many areas where you can hire these for an hour and drive up the quite impressive sand dunes - although watch out for the Saudi youths who can appear from nowhere at high speed. If you're feeling adventurous, you can book a camel ride. There are also diverse open market areas to browse.

bulletDhahran Wildlife Haven
A man-made oasis environment which now supports a remarkable range of fauna and flora. A closer look at this wildlife haven illustrates some ecological successes of recent decades, highlighted by the first successful breeding of Great Crested Grebes within Arabia.
Remarkable greening of the residential community has dramatically entranced the area's potential for migrant, wintering and even breeding birds. Irrigation and planting of exotic trees and shrubs has transformed the community area into a superb parkland habitat attractive to many birds.




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