From Academic Kids

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Road to Dhahran's main gate (Picture taken from Khobar way)

Dhahran (Aramco code: DH) (Arabic الظهران aẓ-Ẓahrān), or Dharan is a city in Saudi Arabia. It is located in the eastern part of the country, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. It is a short distance south of the larger city of Dammam. Dhahran is a fenced in city, and only Saudi Aramco employees and their dependents may live inside. Sometimes Dhahran Hills is used to refer to any or all compounds rather than the Main Camp's Dhahran Hills.

Dhahran is a major center for the oil industry. Large oil reserves were first identified in the Dhahran area in 1931, and in 1935, the Standard Oil company of the United States drilled the first commercially viable oil well. Standard Oil later established a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia called the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), the forerunner to the modern Saudi Aramco (now fully owned by the Saudi government).
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Townhouses in the Hills
In the Gulf War, a significant number of United States military personnel were stationed in Dhahran. Some of these personnel remained in the city after the conclusion of the war, operating under Army Forces Central Command - Saudi Arabia (ARCENT-SA). On June 25, 1996, 19 American servicemen died in a terrorist bombing at Khobar Towers, a U.S. military complex near Dhahran which eventually led to the departure of US Forces in 2001. (See: Khobar Towers bombing).

Dhahran had the old Dhahran King Fahd Air Terminal. The new airport, King Fahd International Airport, is located outside of the city and serves Dammam. The old airport is now called King Abdulaziz Airbase, a major Royal Saudi Air Force base.


Geography and geology

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Duck pond near golf course, Dhahran Hills
Longitude: 5009'0.
Latitude: 2616'N.
Altitude a.s.l.: 26 m.

Dhahran is a short distance north to Khobar and about 15km south to Dammam.The area is hilly/rocky and most of the early Saudi oil-wells were drilled in that area (such as "Dammam Well #7: Prosperity Well," the first commercially viable oil well in Saudi Arabia in the 1930's). Which later helped the city become the headquarters of Saudi Aramco.


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Saudi Aramco's Core Area in Dhahran City
Aramco has built its headquarters in Dhahran. Aramco is considered by many measures to be the largest oil company in the world. The largest oil reservoir in the world is owned by Aramco, it produces more oil per day than any other country or company in the world. Most of the produced oil is exported, Aramco is also the largest oil exporter in the world. (See: Saudi Aramco)

Dhahran is still Saudi Aramco's worldwide headquarters, and the center for the company's finance, exploration, engineering, drilling services, medical services, materials supply and other company organisations. Aramco has a very large multi-national workforce, totaling over 56,000, including approximately 9,000 expatriates from around the world.

Dhahran today is not involved in oil business and operations more than being headquarters and office buildings of Saudi Aramco.


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Pee Wee Baseball Winter Carnival
Aramco has several self-contained communities to house its employees in the Eastern Province. Dhahran is the largest community, with a total population of about 11,300, including approximately 6,200 North Americans (employees, spouses and children).

Inhabitants of Dhahran are mainly Americans and other western ethnicities (mainly British and Canadians). Many commercial malls were built in Khobar and was economically prospered due to the flow of customers coming from Dhahran. Bahrain, a popular destination on holidays, is connected via the 16-mile-long King Fahd Causeway.

Government and law

Also see: Saudi Aramco Health Maintenance Organization

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Abu Hadriyah Street in the Hills
Laws in Dhahran are completely distinct from the rest of Saudi Arabia, law enforcement forces (in addition to health care and fire protection) are all responsibilities of Saudi Aramco, thus most Saudi government laws are not applicable in Dhahran. Women can drive freely in Dhahran and have no special code of clothes (unlike the rest of the kingdom). Safety is an extremely serious issue and can lead to termination or other severe consequenses if safety rules are not obeyed.

The de facto government of Dhahran consists of some departments of Saudi Aramco that are related, such as Loss Prevention Department, Industrial Security Department, Community Services Department, Fire Protection Department...etc.

Saudi Special Emergency Forces Eastern Province headquarters are located 1km away from the main gate of Dhahran, however they do not enter the city unless some serious security issue has occurred (which has never happened). The Saudi Aramco's Industrial Security Department is the traffic, sercurity, and safety enforement service. In addition to regular law enforcement forces, it operates K-9; the Special Search Unit. It is notable that the K-9 has been active since terrorist attacks hit other parts of the country.

Although most terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia (1998-2004) targeted westerners, no single incident occurred in Dhahran. (See: List of terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia.)


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King Fahad International Airport in Dammam
Transportation in Dhahran was mainly designed to serve it as the oil center of the world, thus the roads in Dhahran are the best in condition in the entire country. There is an industrial railroad station adjacent to Dhahran. One of 3 international airports is a short distance west of Dhahran (King Fahad International Airport in Dammam). King Abdulaziz seaport in Dammam is easy to reach. Ras Tanura, the second major oil city (an oil seaport and oil-refining and storing center) is 50km north of Dhahran and connected with it by one highway (like Abqaiq, the major plants area). Aramco runs a free-of-charge Bus service that serves all residents to/from Dhahran. There are basically no traffic jams in Dhahran even in rush hours (with the exception of the security gates and around the core area). However, all traffic lights in Dhahran are computer-controlled to maximize the traffic flow. The main office buildings including the Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center (EXPEC), Exploration Computer Center (ECC) and the Engineering Building are connected by an underground tunnel network to help employees avoid extreme sun heat.


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Hamilton House (Guest House) - Dhahran City
The Information Technology Department of Saudi Aramco administrates all communication in Dhahran. All telecom services are provided for free, as well as home internet (except ADSL). The ITD does not supervise mobile communications, mobile services are provided by STC.


See: Geography and climate of Saudi Arabia


Dhahran is home to the King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals and Aramco Training Center (ATC) which includes the campus of the selective College Preparatory Center.


Newspapers and magazines

All local papers are either owned by Saudi Aramco or special interest groups (SIGs), and they are all free. The main weekly is the Arabian Sun paper. Most Saudi Aramco owned papers and magazines are available online on Aramco's official website (http://www.saudiaramco.com/) (anyone may subscribe for a hard copy free of charge). The papers that are owned by SIGs are available online only through Saudi Aramco's internal network.

The Aramco World magazine can be purchased in the United States for about $3.


Aramco TV (Dhahran TV, and named Channel 3 later) was the first TV channel in the gulf area and the second in the middle east. Dhahran TV started broadcasting in September 16, 1957. Although originally in English, it had later started to broadcast in Arabic, but at the same time, viewers could listen to the English version of the TV programs through Aramco radio simultaneously. In 1970, it had become an all-English channel after the Saudi channel started broadcasting in 1966. By 1989, Saudi Aramco shut down the channel completely.

Sites of interest

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Rolling Hills Country Club House
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Rolling Hills Putting Area
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The Heritage Gallery
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King's Road Theater
  • Ar Rabiyah Compound
  • Dhahran Hills Park
  • Half-Moon Bay
  • Dhahran Rolling Hills Golf Course
  • Saudi Aramco Oil Exhibit
  • The Heritage Gallery
  • Al-Fayrouz Theater
  • Munira Ashgar's Museum
  • U.S. Consulate General
  • King's Road Theater
  • Hamilton Guest House
  • Dhahran Hobby Farm
  • King's Road Library
  • EXPEC Building (in the Admin Area)
  • The Almujamma (Blue) Mosque
  • Engineering Complex (Office Buildings and Library)
  • King's Road Recreation Area
  • Steinecke Hall
  • King's Road Ball Field
  • Dhahran Dance Hall
  • Tower Building
  • Dhahran Rolling Hills Putting Area
  • Dolly Parton
  • Dhahran International Hotel (Known for being the residence of foreign reporters during the Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991), and the 1998 Operation Desert Fox. Remainings of a launched Patriot Missile are displayed in the main hall)

More information

The following text has been adapted from Aramco's relocation and orientation guide for new employees.

The community of Dhahran is composed of 2 sections: Dhahran main camp and Dhahran Hills. These 2 sections are separated by Dhahran's 27 hole Rolling Hills golf course and club house. The term 'camp' has stuck with Dhahran and the other communities, since its early development in the 1930's and 40's. However, in reality, Dhahran is an attractive community with tree-lined streets, stone houses and grass lawns.

Dhahran main camp is located at the site of the original Dhahran camp and contains the administration complex, health center, dental clinic, dining hall, library and theatre. The community's Al Mujamma service center(seen in the image) is a mall-type complex which houses the mail center, barber shop, travel office, photo shop, laundry, dry cleaners, housing office, community bulletin boards and ticket office for community events. The supermarket and florist are adjacent to Al Mujamma, as is the bank. The Dhahran dining hall is also on the main camp, not far from Al Mujamma.

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Al Mujamma as seen from the Gate #4 Bus Stop
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King's Road in the Main Camp

There are 2 recreation complexes on the main camp. One complex is next to the middle school and includes a youth center, swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, squash courts and games fields. The other is situated near the community library. Included in this complex is the bowling alley, movie theatre, games room and dance hall.

Most homes in the main camp are constructed of brick or fieldstone, and many have undergone recent modernisation. There are also some newer, modular homes in this area. The gardens and landscaped areas of these homes are surprisingly green with large shade trees and flowering bougainvillea and oleanders.

Dhahran Hills, which is mostly residential, is located about 2 miles west of Dhahran main camp, just beyond the community's golf course. Most houses in the hills were constructed in the early 80's. The Dhahran Hills school, for kids aged 5-10, is located in the hills. Adjacent to the school is a large community recreation center similar to the ones in the main camp.

Dhahran also has a hobby farm (horse stables), bike/jogging paths and a rugby field.

Dhahran's marina and adjoining beach facility is at Half Moon Bay, a small inlet of the Persian Gulf. It is just 40 minutes from the community of Dhahran. Sailing, fishing and water-skiing facilities are available.

Al-Munirah is a compound in Dhahran but outside the main camp and the Hills, it is designated for junior staff (as Dhahran Hills and the Main Camp are resided by senior staff and their families). Ar-Rabiyah, a compound that is "attached" to Dhahran, is exclusively reserved for managers and executive vice presidents and their families. Ar-Rabiyah is also considered one of the classiest compounds in the whole region, even to being referred to as the "Golden Ghetto" (also see Beverly Hills which was created by the Amalgamated Oil Company - similar story).

Major yearly events

Prior to year 2000, the city had special events in the Fourth of July and Christmas.

Dhahran in film and TV

  • West Wing: In one episode, the story plot was picketers outside the Aramco camp of Dhahran.
  • CNN: A report about Dhahran was aired.

See also

External links



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