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Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Map Saudi Arabia

  • To start off: Lonely Planet issues the following warning: Travel Warning: Foreigners Targeted. Following attacks on foreigners, western governments are warning against non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia. If you are staying in the country, avoid public places where Westerners are known to congregate, ensure that your hotel has a good reputation for maintaining high security precautions and stay abreast of travel advisory updates.

  • Dammam is a town which, before the discovery of oil, was nothing more than a small fishing and pearling village. Dahran didn't even exist, which is now a reasonable sized town further south along the coast. Dammam is now the administrative center of the Eastern Province. It has only been in existence since 1923 and started its growth after the ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) oil people started their camp there. The causeway to Bahrain starts here, an engineering feat of renown. 25 Kilometers long. In fact, for people working in Saudi, this is a very important connection. To renew your working visa, it is sometimes necessary to leave the country for a day or so. That meant flying out and flying back in again in the old days, rather expensive. Now you just take your car and drive the short distance to Bahrain, have a nice weekend there (alcohol is permitted and it is very relaxed and tolerant), then drive back and renew your visa! Very cheap and effective! Dharhan was built entirely by ARAMCO, consisting out of an airport (60 km North of it and unbelievable large and brand new), the US consulate, the King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals. There is little more to be seen, except a good many houses. A small but nice shopping town is Al Jubail, 90km north of Dammam. There is a Holiday Inn hotel I can recommend. Nicely situated on the Arabian Gulf (called the Persian Gulf in older days), with it's own family beach and very good food, shops, rooms, etc. Then there's Al Khubail, a very relaxed, beautiful town with many shops and eating places. Try one of the little eating houses, that look like a snack bar. I have thoroughly enjoyed staying in Al Khubail. There's a covered shopping center that's nicely air conditioned and provides all the shops you're looking for even including a snackbar.
    Please remember: be careful taking pictures anywhere. If you do want to take a picture, try to get permission first. You may otherwise get into trouble. And don't go swimming on the beach: there are certain rules: There are men's beaches, where only men are allowed. Nowhere else!!! There are also family beaches, where ONLY families may relax. No men alone are allowed. Women don't swim alone or even, if at all possible, don't go out on their own. Respect the Islamic religion and the praying times. Don't stay in a shop trying to buy something. Just sit outside and wait until the sign is given that you may enter again for further business. In public events, women and men are always separated. Leave it like that. In fact, if you are to stay in Saudi Arabia anywhere for a shorter time, like a few months, leave the ladies home. It might save a lot of stress! Things are getting a little more relaxed nowadays. I noticed women walking around on their own, unescorted, in Al Khubail in 2000. They didn't even wear scarves or coats, but walked around bareheaded and in jeans. Still, make sure what the habits are at the moment you should be there and stick to them! By the way: I see Saudi Arabia as the largest beach in the world: from coast to coast! And don't expect the flowing desert hills you so often see on movies. That's part of the Sahara. This desert is as flat as a pancake.

  • Religion: Islam. Practice of any other religion is not allowed anywhere within the borders of Saudi Arabia.
  • Currency: Saudi riyal (about $1 = 3.8 riyals).
  • Language: Arabic. English is widely spoken
  • Flag: the white script on the green flag translates to: "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet"

  • Time compared to GMT: +3
  • Activities and tips: To start off: you can't go to Saudi Arabia as a tourist. You'll only get a visum, if you have to work there. And even then, you need an invitation of a local firm or person of influence. If you want to know more about the visa requirements etc, please visit this site: This site also gives other information on shopping, custom regulations, accommodation, religion, culture, transport, where to stay, and a lot more! Even then it's not easy to obtain the visum! So it is a bit stupid to give tips on what to see and so on. I was there for some months, but never saw much else but Jubail, where I did my shopping, a bit of Dammam (nothing there but buildings I thought) and Dhahran, even worse. I saw a heck of a lot more of Al Khobar, as I could walk around far more relaxed then a few years back. In fact, I really enjoyed my stay there and my shopping sprees in the city! If you have to stay in Dammam, there's another great hotel I can recommend: The Oberon. All credit cards are accepted everywhere.

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Copyright © 1998-2010 Luuk Francken
Map Saudi Arabia: permission for use granted by

Created: April 14, 1998. Updated: juli 14 2013

Copyright © 1998-2018 Luuk Francken