City - Al Khobar
Al Khobar a pleasant, cosmopolitan city in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, is part of the greater Dammam metropolitan area. The city, which houses Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, has a population of 165,799 (2004 census). It is only 45 minutes from Manama, Bahrain, linked by way of the 16-mile King Fahd Causeway. Once a fishing village inhabited by Al Dawasir tribe members, Al Khobar is now a flourishing commercial center with a scenic corniche, diverse and exotic restaurants, and several shopping malls. Favorite recreational activities include camel back riding and jet skiing. The city has two English language newspapers, the Arab News and the Saudi Gazette.
The bridge on the King Fahd Causeway, impressive in itself, is overlooked by a tower that offers a magnificent view of the ocean. Al Khobar’s Al Rashid Mall is the largest shopping mall in Saudi Arabia. There are also authentic Arabian shops on King Khalid Street and Dhahran Street, and gold merchants galore along the Gold Suq. Al Khobar has many fine museums and exhibition centers, including the Saudi Aramco Exhibit (which relays the history of the petroleum industry), the Science Technology Center, and the Royal Commission Visitor Center. The Last Old House in Qatif, the Turkish Bathhouse, Hamma Abu Louza, and Qasr Ibrahim, an old castle, are architectural treasures.
The Bahrain International Airport is closer to Al Khobar than the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam. For local transportation, limousines and taxis are used; in addition, most compounds have their own bus services. There are many hotels and apartments for rent, and about 50% of the city’s population lives in residential complexes in the area of Aqrabia. Though the city has excellent restaurants—including one called Abu Nawas where the sounds of bird song mix with Middle Eastern music—nightlife is minimal. Many expatriates get a Multiple Visa so they can go to Bahrain, and enjoy alcoholic drinks unavailable in Saudia Arabia. Al Khobar has more than 50 public and private schools, plus several universities. The Hejira calendar is in use, so the weekend is Thursday and Friday. The weather is generally warm; November to June is very pleasant, but July and August are hot and humid. As in all Saudi cities, pork and alcohol are not allowed. The dress code requires that women wear the abaya, a long black overgarment, and that men avoid wearing shorts.
Al Khobar is a city with vitality and interest. In addition to its rich cultural and recreational life, it offers many social outlets for expatriates, from aerobics groups to bridge clubs and a choral society. It is a Saudi Arabian city that is especially welcoming to western teachers.