King Abdulaziz port in Dammam is the largest in the Gulf. Only Jeddah on the Red Sea has a larger port on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Dammam metropolitan area has a population of about 2.5 million people, more than 2 million of whom live in the city, the third-largest in the kingdom after Riyadh and Jeddah. A further 450,000 live in Al-Khobar. Dhahran has a population of about 11,000, but the two cities are located so close together they effectively meld into one and most locals no longer distinguish between the two. The governor of the Eastern Province is Prince Mohammad bin Fahd, who has been in office since 1985.

The area is associated with Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company Saudi Aramco, which made its first major oil discovery in the area (as Arabian American Oil Company) when it was still owned by the US’ Standard Oil Company of California and Texaco. On 4 March 1938, after a largely fruitless exploration campaign, Aramco decided to drill a seventh, and last, well – Dammam 7 – in the province. It started producing oil, with output steadily rising to 3,000 barrels a day.

The company conclusively proved that oil production in the kingdom was commercially viable. Dammam 7 became an oil industry legend and the Eastern Province went on to provide a quarter of the world’s oil supply. The camp set up around Dammam 7 grew to become the town of Dhahran, a major cog in the Aramco machine and the site of its headquarters to this day. Aramco and oil are at the heart of the regional economy.

Al-Khobar

Expats describe Al-Khobar as the most pleasant part of the area due to its long and picturesque corniche. They also rate its restaurants highly.

A fishing village before the discovery of oil, Al-Khobar became a major port during the expansion of Aramco’s operations in the area, but its significance has diminished since King Abdulaziz port rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s and Aramco built a dedicated oil export terminal at Ras Tanura to the north of Dammam.

Al-Khobar has become as much a stop-off point as a trade destination in recent years, particularly since the completion of the King Fahd causeway, which links Saudi Arabia with Bahrain and passes through Al-Khobar.

Dammam

Most subsidiary services to the oil industry can be found in Dammam, from oil service companies to caterers. The city has undergone massive growth since 1938 and, as with other cities in Saudi Arabia, residents complain of smog, congested traffic and a sometimes incomprehensible road system.

In recent years, a lot of work has gone into sprucing up Dammam’s corniche and the local tourism department has worked hard to promote the city as a destination, with emphasis on the artificial reef of Half Moon Bay and Coral Island, a 15-minute boat ride away from the city.

Transport

Aviation
The Dammam metro area is served by a single airport, King Fahd International airport, which is located in the desert about 40 kilometres to the northwest of the city. In the past, complaints were made about the state of the roads leading into and out of the airport, but they have improved considerably in recent years. Another option, particularly for visitors to Al-Khobar, is flying to Bahrain International airport. It is about 65km from the city, not much more of a drive than the 50km from King Fahd airport.

Rail
Dammam is part of the existing Saudi Arabian passenger rail network, which connects the city with Riyadh (4.5 hours away) and Al-Hofuf (1.5 hours away).

Accommodation

Most of the attractive and expensive hotels and apartments in Dammam and Al-Khobar are close to the corniches in the cities, with visitors rating Al-Khobar’s hotels, grouped in the exclusive Madinat al-Ummal neighbourhood, particularly highly.

Apartments and villas
If you are moving to Dammam or Al-Khobar, you will not be short of choices for accommodation. In general, Dammam is seen as the older of the two places and is noted for its bustling markets and sometimes decrepit buildings. Al-Khobar is popular among expats and is seen as a little more upmarket. Further out of the cities, there are also a wide range of compounds.

Another choice for people working in either city, particularly Al-Khobar, is to live in Bahrain and commute to Saudi Arabia. Some families who do not enjoy compound living find this option preferable as Bahrain has a more laid-back, liberal atmosphere where women can drive and alcohol is legal.

Apartments
Beyond Madinat al-Ummal, expatriates favour areas including Al-Bandaryah in the north of Al-Khobar, an older part of the city, Al-Ulaya, which is an area developed relatively recently, from which you can walk to the huge new Al-Rashid Mall, and Al-Rakah, near the large university campus.

Villas and compounds
Sadly, Al-Khobar is remembered by many for the tragic attacks on several oil companies and a large expatriate compound in 2004 by the extremist Jerusalem Squadron. To this day, security around compounds in the area is tight and there have been no attacks since then. Al-Khobar has some of the best compounds in the kingdom, including Al-Bustan, Zamil Village, Oasis, Nesma Village, Canary Village and Al-Rushaid.

Office space
Office space in Dammam and Al-Khobar is cheaper than in Riyadh and comparable with Jeddah. The quality can be variable, however, and some businesses have complained about older facilities in Dammam. Another option is moving into one of the growing number of business parks that are springing up around Dammam in particular. These include the Novotel business park in Al-Khobar.

Healthcare

As in the rest of the kingdom, there are a wide variety of hospitals and smaller clinics in Dammam and Al-Khobar, which offer a good level of healthcare. Larger facilities include Saad Specialist Hospital in Al-Khobar and King Fahad Specialist Hospital in Dammam, both of which are accredited by the US-based healthcare organisation Joint Commission International.

The 1,500-bed King Khalid Medical City is also under construction about 20km southwest of Dhahran. US-based Aecom was awarded a $27.9m contract in July 2012 to provide architecture, engineering, design and production services for the facility.

Rail
Check train times on the Saudi Railways Organisation website
Website: www.saudirailways.org
Tel: (+966) 2 000 8886

Car rentals in Dammam
Budget
King Fahd Street
Tel: (+966) 3 842 7303

Sixt
Prince Nasser Street
Website: www.sixt.com/car-rental/saudi-arabia
Tel: (+966) 3 845 1020

Europcar
Airport pickups only
Website: www.europcar.com/car-rental-saudi_arabia-dammam
Tel: (+966) 3 867 1111

Hertz
King Saud Street
Website: www.hertz.co.uk/rentacar/car-hire/saudi_arabia/dammam
Tel: (+966) 3 834 6770

Avis
Dammam-Khobar highway
Website: www.avis.com/car-rental/location/MIE/SA/Dammam
Tel: (+966) 3 859 3030

Car rentals in Al-Khobar
Budget
Dharan Street (near Habitat)
Tel: (+966) 3 899 3975

Europcar
Al-Khobar Holiday Inn, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Road, Khobar Corniche
Website: www.europcar.com/car-rental-saudi_arabia-al-khobar
Tel: (+966) 3 867 1111

Avis
King Abdulaziz Street
Website: www.avis.com/car-rental/location/MIE/SA/Khobar
Tel: (+966) 3 859 5053

Compounds in Al-Khobar
Al-Bustan
Website
: www.al-bustan.net
Tel: (+966) 3 882 6846

Zamil Village
Website
: www.zamilrealestate.com
Tel: (+966) 3 857 0101

Oasis
Golden Belt Road
Website: www.oasisresorts.net
Tel: (+966) 3 887 1777

Canary Village
Website
: www.canaryvillage.com
Tel: (+966) 3 859 0895

Al-Rushaid Compound
Tel
: (+966) 3 882 6993

Office space
Novotel Business Park
Al-Khobar-Dammam highway
Website: www.novotel-bp.com.sa
Tel: (+966) 3 847 3691

Hospitals in Dammam
Al-Amal Hospital
Seihat
Tel: (+966) 3 837 0634

Al-Magrabi Hospital
Khaleej District
Tel: (+966) 3 820 2833

Al-Mane General Hospital
Mujammah District
Tel: (+966) 3 827 6461

Al-Mowasat Hospital
Ohod District
Tel: (+966) 3 820 0000

Al-Qateef Central Hospital
Um al-Hammam District
Tel: (+966) 3 836 0280

Al-Saddig Hospital
King Abdulaziz Street,
Tel: (+966) 3 850 0156

Al-Zahra Hospital
Qatif
Tel: (+966) 3 855 5333

Almana General Hospital
Jamaeen District
Tel: (+966) 3 826 2111

Aramco Hospital
Aramco District
Tel: (+966) 3 678 4811

Dammam Central Hospital
Jalawia District
Tel: (+966) 3 815 5777

Dr Kahled al-Zahrani Medical Centre
Khaleej District
Tel: (+966) 3 818 8866

King Fahd Hospital
Ittisalat District
Tel: (+966) 3 841 7938

Hospitals in Al-Khobar
Al-Yousif Hospital

Al-Baboneyah District,
Tel: (+966) 3 864 2751

Al-Fakhri Hospital
Suikt District
Tel: (+966) 3 864 1960

Al-Manea General Hospital
Khobar
Tel: (+966) 3 898 7612

Al-Mna’a Hospital
Khobar
Tel: (+966) 3 894 5500

Al-Salama Hospital

2nd Street, Khobar North
Tel: (+966) 3 864 1011

Almana Hospital
Prince Talal Street
Tel: (+966) 3 898 7000

Astoon Hospital
King Fahd Road
Tel: (+966) 3 859 1515

Dr Fakhri Hospital
Prince Bandar Street, Khobar North
Tel: (+966) 3 864 4691

King Fahd Hospital
Al-Aqrabiyah District
Tel: (+966) 3 896 6750

Mohammad al-Dossoury Hospital
4th Street, Khobar South
Tel: (+966) 3 894 5524

Riaya Hospital
Dhahran Street, Khobar North
Tel: (+966) 3 895 5900

Government departments and offices

Alsharqia Chamber

Alsharqia Chamber offers its services to businesses across the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

The chamber’s responsibilities include liaising between the public and private sectors, driving the interests of the local business community and promoting economic diversification in the region. It also hosts the Businesswomen’s Centre, which seeks to increase the participation of women in the private sector.
Website: www.chamber.org.sa

Main branch
Alsharqia Chamber 
Khobar-Dammam Highway, Khaldiah District, Dammam
Tel: +966 (3) 859 8123

Jubail branch
Jeddah Street, Jubail City
Tel: +966 (3) 362 4242

Hafr al-Batin branch
30th Street, Khaldiah District
Tel: +966 (3) 724 9600

Khafji branch
King Abdulaziz Street, Al-Mohammadiyah District, Khafji City
Tel: +966 (3) 766 2707

Qatif branch
Riyadh Street, AlKhamsah District, Qatif City
Tel: +966 (3) 853 1400

Businesswomen Centre
Prince Turki Street, Southern Khobar District, Khobar City
Tel: +966 (3) 899 1609