Dahran: Wikis

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This article is about Dhahran, the city. For the Saudi Aramco residential compound, see Dhahran Aramco Camp.
Dhahranالظهران is located in Saudi Arabia
Location in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 26°16′N 50°09′E / 26.267°N 50.15°E / 26.267; 50.15
Country  Saudi Arabia
Province Eastern Province
 - Mayor Bandar Al-Subayi
 - City 100 km2 (38.6 sq mi)
 - Land 100 km2 (38.6 sq mi)
 - Water 0 km2 (0 sq mi)
Population (2004)
 - City 11,300
 Metro 97,446

Dhahran (Arabic الظهران aẓ-Ẓahrān) is located in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, and is a major administrative center for the Saudi oil industry. Large oil reserves were first identified in the Dhahran area in 1931, and in 1935 Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation) drilled the first commercially viable oil well. Standard Oil later established a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia called the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), now fully owned by the Saudi government as Saudi Aramco.



Dhahran is a short distance west of downtown Al-Khobar. It is about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Dammam. Both are older Saudi port cities on the Persian Gulf. Looking farther afield, Dhahran is northeast of Abqaiq, and southeast of Qatif and, further north, Ras Tanura, a major oil port. The island nation of Bahrain is also within easy driving distance to the east (about 20 miles (32 km)), across the King Fahd Causeway, from Al-Khobar.


The patch of desert on which the city is built is hilly and rocky, and most of the earliest productive oil wells in Saudi Arabia were drilled in the area, such as Dammam Well #7: "Prosperity Well," the first commercially viable oil well in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. This well is still in production 70 years later. This later led to the selection of two barren nearby hills as the place for Aramco to construct its headquarters.[1]

The Dhahran-Dammam area is one of two regions, the other being Jeddah, that were selected as potential sites to build the first Saudi nuclear reactor.[2]


Dhahran’s climate is characterized by extremely hot, humid summers, and cool winters. Temperatures can rise to more than 50 °C (120 °F) in the summer, coupled with extreme humidity (85-100 per cent), given the city’s proximity to the Persian Gulf. It holds the record for the highest temperature in the country: 51.1 °C (124 °F),recorded in August 1956.[1]. In winter, the temperature rarely falls below 2 °C (35.6 °F) or 3 °C (37.4 °F),being the lowest ever recorded -0.5C in January 1964, with rain falling mostly between the months of November and May. The Shamal winds usually blow across the city in the early months of the summer, bringing dust storms that can reduce visibility to a few metres. These winds can last for up to six months.


Dhahran was settled after 1938, the year oil was discovered in the vicinity.[2]

In 1950 Dhahran had a population of about 7,000 people.[3] During the Persian Gulf War, the city was the scene of the largest loss of life among coalition forces. On February 25 1991, an Iraqi missile hit a U.S. army barracks in the city, killing 28 American reservists from Pennsylvania.


IKEA store in Dhahran

Dhahran has the headquarters of Saudi Aramco.[4] The company is the largest oil company in the world with the largest oil reserves in the world [3], and it produces about 10 million barrels of oil per day. Most of the oil is exported, since local Saudi needs require about 12 percent of the total production. (See: Saudi Aramco)[citation needed]

Seventy-six years on, Dhahran is still Saudi Aramco's worldwide headquarters and the center of the company's finance, exploration, engineering, drilling services, medical services, materials supply and other company organisations.[citation needed]


The population of Dhahran is mainly Saudi, but also includes many expatriates from Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as developed countries such as the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. There are also many non-Saudi Arab nationals living in Dhahran, such as Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Sudanese, and Syrians. According to a 2004 census the total population of the Dhahran municipality is 97,446.

Many companies that employ relatively large numbers of expatriates have built fenced-in compounds where only expatriates live, however the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp in Dhahran is not one of these. While only employees of Saudi Aramco live on the camp, their nationalities reflect those of the company as a whole. As of 2008, the Saudi Aramco workforce is 85% Saudi, with only 15% expatriates. There are also several neighborhoods, or suburbs just outside the main Saudi Aramco Camp, such as Hay Al-Doha (حي الدوحه) and Hay Al-Dana (حي الدانة), where Saudi Aramco gives home loans to Saudi employees to build their own homes.

Government, law, and security

Dhahran is part of the Eastern Province (Ash Sharqiyah Province), the largest province in Saudi Arabia. The province is governed by Prince Mohammed bin Fahad bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Just like the rest of the country, the law of Shari’a, or Islamic law is adhered to. Following the Saudi Arabian municipal elections in 2005, members of the municipal councils were elected.

Dhahran is guarded as it is a high visibility city. The Saudi Special Emergency Forces' Eastern Province headquarters are located in Dhahran near the Saudi Aramco residential camp. There are many security checkpoints throughout the city that have been almost permanently in place since the Riyadh Compound Bombings.


Road to Dhahran's main gate

As the centre of the nation's oil industry, Dhahran enjoys excellent transport resources both nationally and internationally.

The nation's excellent highway infrastructure was modernized extensively in the '70s and '80s and features National Guard checkpoints at strategic locations.


Formerly one of Saudi Arabia's three major international airports, Dhahran Airport (DHA), which in 1946 began as the Dhahran Airfield, is now an airbase of the Royal Saudi Air Force. Today, King Fahad International Airport (DMM), which replaced Dhahran International for commercial and cargo, serves the entire metropolitan area of Dhahran, Dammam, and Al Khobar. Saudi Aramco Aviation has its own buildings and terminal where all Saudi Aramco flights originate.


Although rail service in Saudi Arabia plays a much more minor role today than 50 years ago, an industrial railroad with a station adjacent to Dhahran still exists, linking it to the capital Riyadh.

Public transport is not widespread although it is available in a very limited manner. Taxi service is more popular than taking a bus. Saudi Aramco runs its own bus transport, which connects the residential and industrial camps of the company, as well as connecting them to Dhahran and Khobar. Almost all residential compounds operate their own bus services which are typically used for shopping trips by the residents.

Communications and Media

Mobile communications are provided mainly by STC, Mobily and Zain. The three companies have launched 3G services to their customers. STC also provides landlines through its Al-Hatif services, as well as providing internet services through Saudi Data. There are several Internet Service Providers such as Al-Alamiah, ArabNet, Nesma and others. Both dial-up and DSL services are available.

There are several popular radio stations, such as Radio Sawa, Studio One 91.4 FM, broadcast from Aramco, Bahrain Radio 96.5 FM, and AFRTS.

Satellite television is predominant in the market, with Orbit Showtime being the most popular, as well as the widespread Arabsat and Nilesat satellite channel operators.


Schools in Dhahran come under two sections: public (government-run) and private. Public schools (K-12), open to almost everyone, strictly adhere to teaching the curriculum exactly as provided by the Ministry of Education. Public schools also come under two sections: Aramco Built and government built. The Aramco built schools are usually better in design and last longer due to them being built to higher standards. The Dhahran School and the Dhahran Hills School are the two main schools that are only for the children of employees.They are international schools and are fully accredited. Private schools also teach the ministry’s curriculum, but they have more freedom: often enhancing certain aspects, such as exceeding the ministry’s curriculum when teaching the English language. King Fahad University Schools and Al-Sa'ad National Schools are examples of private schools in Dhahran.

There are several schools that teach the curriculum of their native countries, such as the Indian International School, Dhahran British Grammar School, Dhahran Academy, Dhahran Elementary Middle School, Dhahran High School, and Al-Khobar French School.

Dhahran is also home to the King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), and the Aramco Training Center (ATC), where many new employees of Saudi Aramco learn useful skills, such as English, Business Mathematics, Physics, and computer skills. King Faisal University and Prince Mohammad bin Fahad University are also located near the city. There are also plans for building the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Little League World Series

Dhahran, specifically a team drawn from the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp, has represented the Middle East-Africa, or "MEA" region (formerly the Trans-Atlantic region), 10 years straight in the running. The city also had 11 teams before that represent them from the first being in 1983 through 1998. Though Dhahran has produced many teams to the Little League World Series, no team has ever won the World Series championship game, nor the international championship game.

Dhahran in popular culture

  • Acts of terrorism, including the Oasis Compound attack, the Khobar Towers attack, and the attack on the Petroleum Centre in Al-Khobar, were widely televised in the international media. National media in the kingdom is heavily censored and government controlled.
  • The West Wing: In one episode, the story plot includes picketers outside the Aramco camp of Dhahran.
  • In 1998, after the kidnapping and murder of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, the major American news networks would occasionally mention that the student's parents lived in Dhahran and worked for Aramco.
  • In Abdelrahman Munif's Cities of Salt novels, the oil-company outpost of Darran is widely believed to be Dhahran's fictional analogue.


  1. ^ http://books.google.com/books?q=Aramco+highest+temperature&btnG=Search+Books
  2. ^ Cohen, Saul B. The Columbia Gazeteer of the World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) p. 828
  3. ^ Columbia-Lippincott Gazeteer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952) p. 510
  4. ^ "Contact Us." Saudi Aramco. Retrieved on 5 November 2009.

See also

External links

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