The Triplet Cities (Eastern Province)
The Triplet Cities: Dammam, Khobar and Dhahran
Perched on the coast of the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia, are the so-called Triplet Cities: Dammam, Dhahran and Khobar.
They have a combined population of over 2.5 million, and are more akin to urban centers than cities.
The growth of the area following the oil boom merged the three jurisdictions of Dammam, Dhahran and Khobar together, integrating them into one large municipality, known as the Dammam Metropolitan Area, or the Dammam Area. Each of the three towns which form the Dammam Area preserved their independence of character and kept some local administrative functions.
The King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) serves all three urban centers as well as outlying towns.
Dammam is the capital of this eastern province and the most oil-rich region in the world. Dammam is the fifth largest city in the Kingdom, after Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and Medina. King Fahd International Airport and the country’s second largest shipping port, King Abdul Aziz Sea Port, are in Dammam.
In the 40s and 50s, oil fields that contained a quarter of the world's known oil reserves to the south, west and north of Dammam were discovered. Needless to add, a building boom followed.
Dammam is now a modern urban and industrial center and the headquarters of the Saudi Arabian oil industry. New roads and highways connect Dammam to other urban and industrial centers in the Kingdom. A railway line connects this capital city to the agricultural center of Al-Kharj and to Riyadh.
Dammam has 8-lane highways that connect it by road to cities throughout the Kingdom. Highway 40 connects Dammam to Riyadh and Jeddah, and the King Fahd Causeway connects the eastern province to the island-state of Bahrain. The city is connected to the Saudi capital, Riyadh and Jeddah on the west coast by Highway 40, and has highways to Kuwait (the Abu Hadriyah Highway), Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Dhahran is home to the headquarters of Saudi Aramco, the global petroleum company for exploration, production, refining, distribution, shipping and marketing.
It is also home to the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, dubbed the ‘MIT of Saudi Arabia’. Around 14 kilometers south-east of Dammam, Dhahran is an inland area and as much a commercial hub as its two city sisters. Housing developments and suburbs, mostly linked to Saudi Aramco, cover a large area and are serviced by a comprehensive array of schools, shopping centers, parks and restaurants. Photo credit (right): Blue Abaya Photography
Saudi Aramco is a state-owned global petroleum and chemicals enterprise for oil exploration, production, refining, distribution, shipping and marketing. Aramco manages more than 113 oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia, and has the world’s largest crude oil reserves at 259.7 billion barrels, with an average crude production (in 2011) of 9.1 million barrels per day. Saudi Aramco employs more than 54,000 people worldwide.
Many of this city’s residents are employees of Saudi Aramco. Once a remote desert merchant and fishing town, Khobar is today a sprawling city with modern road networks, international franchises and restaurants.
Khobar is connected to major highway systems: the Dhahran-Jubail Highway, the Dhahran-Dammam Highway and the Khobar-Dammam Highway, which links Khobar with Dammam and KFIA. A drive along a 25 km (15.5 mile) stretch of bridges, the King Fahd Causeway, across the Gulf of Bahrain from Khobar to the island-state of Bahrain is a remarkable experience.
Completed in 1986, this causeway is a spectacular drive over 25 km (15.5 miles) of bridge across the calm waters of the Gulf of Bahrain, linking Khobar and the rest of Saudi Arabia to the state of Bahrain. An impressive engineering construction, it has five bridges and seven embankments, one of which serves as the Border Station. This border embankment is made up of two connected islands, one for each country. Around 45,000 vehicles use the causeway in one weekday, which rises to 60,000 over the weekend.
While Dammam has Saudi Arabia’s second largest commercial port, Khobar exports oil via its dedicated Saudi Aramco port of Ras Tanura, a tiny peninsula extending into the Persian Gulf. Khobar is a vibrant city with its own version of a Corniche (seaside leisure zone) lined with international and local restaurants, coffee bars and shopping venues.