The Eastern Province is the largest of 13 provinces in Kingdom (KSA). In the eastern part of the country it borders the entire coastline of the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf). It also shares borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. It is home to most of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.
Dammam is the capital and is a major deep water port on the Arabian Gulf. Just below Dammam along the coast is Al Khobar. Al khobar was a small sleepy fishing village but when oil exploration began in the Eastern Province it quickly transformed into a large international community with a cosmopolitan image. Compounds sprang up to house the large influx of expats working in the oil industry. It is now a colorful place with plenty of shopping, numerous international hotels, a wide variety of restaurants and very modern health facilities.
Dhahran, just inland of Al Khobar, is the third city that completes what is called the “triplet cities”. Large oil reserves were first found in Dhahran in 1931. Standard Oil Company drilled the first oil well here. They formed a subsidiary call the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) now fully owned by the Saudi government and is known as Saudi Aramco. Saudi Aramco has had its headquarters in Dhahran for the last 80 years, it started the first and largest gated compound with more than 15,000 residents. The three cities also known as Greater Dammam make up this metropolitan area, it has a estimated population of over 4 million people. Which is the 5th largest populated area in Kingdom.
Two other cities of note is the City of Jubail and Hofuf. Jubail is 70 miles north of Al Khobar about an hour’s car ride along the Arabian Gulf. It has ancient roots and has been inhabited for over 7000 years. It was a small fishing village until 1975 when it was designated as the site for the “new industrial city”. It now houses the middle east’s largest and world’s 4th largest petrochemical operations and is the largest civil engineering project in the world today. Dow and Saudi Aramco formed a joint venture company called Sadara. Jubail is where the Sadara facility is being built and is the project that ME is working.(more on this in future posts) Hofuf is 95 miles south of Al Khobar, it is one of the major cultural centers in Saudi Arabia. It is inland and located on the Al Hasa oasis the largest oasis in the world.
The Rud’al Khali or the Empty Quarter is the largest sand desert in the world, it is located in the southern third of the Saudi Arabian Peninsula and occupies more than half of the Eastern Province.
Ghawar located south of Dhahran is the largest oil field in the world, owned and operated by Saudi Aramco.
Al Khobar is very close in latitude to Fort Lauderdale in southern Florida at 26.10.026 degrees. We live in a “hot desert climate.” Rainfall is general sparse occurring in the winter months with accumulations of less than 4″ a year. The temperatures in the winters months range from the 60’s to lower 70’s during the day and at night in the upper 40’s to mid 50″s. In summer the daily temperatures average in the mid 100’s getting as hot as 120 and at night in the upper 80’s. Because we are directly on the Arabian Gulf humidity is generally very high in summer. Summer is also known for dust/sand storms coming from the Arabian Peninsulas’ desert or from North Africa.
For me Al khobar is a mix between the narrow streets of the old city shopping district, called the souq meaning marketplace or commercial quarter, and the newer areas surrounding it, like Corniche Street. Corniche meaning a road the runs along the sea. The Corniche is a 4 lane busy commercial road with restaurants, modern shopping centers, fast food places, hotels and supermarkets etc. A little farther out are first class shopping malls and department stores with many of the chain stores and restaurants found in the US and the UK. There is construction everywhere from new office buildings, apartment buildings, new housing compounds and more strip malls large and small. There is also roadwork’s everywhere, traffic is constantly being rerouted to allow these projects to progress in what seems to be a very slow process. It is also very dry here, very little green and what green areas there are needs constant watering. What green you see now in the indigenous plants I would assume by the end of summer would totally disappear. Below are some pictures I took trying to capture the city of Al khobar.