Saudi Arabia Area Guides: Eastern Province

Dhahran Area Guide

Optimistic, not fearful
“We are confident about the Kingdom’s future. With all the blessings Allah has bestowed on our nation, we cannot help but be optimistic about the decades ahead. We ponder what lies over the horizon rather than worrying about what could be lost.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz
Crown Prince, Prime Minister, Saudi Arabia
Eastern Province, UAE
Do your children attend a Saudi Arabia school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.

The 22.5-square-mile sized Dhahran forms part of the triangle of the Dammam area. It is accessible from both Dammam (15 minutes) and Khobar (less than 10) by a 6-8-lane expressway. Dammam railway station is 18 km outside its 'centre'. 

This is the administrative hub of Saudi Aramco, and your connection (direct or indirect) to this misplaced Californian town will be the reason you're trying to find out about the area. Some 50,000 employees of the company reside in the city (meaning one in five people you see). 'Aramcons' refer to the city as the Aramco Camp. Khobar and Dammam are considered areas "outside the camp". 

The modern Dhahran 'arrived' with the discovery of oil and has served as the nation's administrative hub for the oil industry ever since. The industry (in the widest sense) dominates everything - from how you're paid, to what you'll end up talking about. Unsurprising then that the city has made itself look and feel very comfortable to the expats drawn to serve it.

With its palm trees, pastel-pink architecture and sprawling sports fields, Dhahran could be any Californian town. The only thing that sets it apart is its location. Huck Magazine
You could be in the suburbs of any big America city — rows of clapboard houses, most of them single-story, some with a small porch where you might enjoy your barbecue at weekends. You drive down main street — King’s Street — past neat gardens, grocery stores, medical facilities and a cinema. Arab News

The three cities of Dhahran, Khobar, and Dammam are collectively known as the greater Dammam or the Dammam Metropolitan Area. The area offers beaches, a maritime museum, a water park, resorts, and parks...

It's not (quite) all suburbia and oil. The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (more crisply known as known as Ithra). It was built by Saudi Aramco and is one of its social responsibility initiatives, focusing on culture, learning and cross-cultural activities.
Ithra, one of the main cultural hubs of the city.

There is no direct bus service in many parts of central Dhahran but fret not: Saudi Aramco provides its own service, linking up the network. The service is for Aramco employees and their dependents only. 

The nearest airport is now 65 km away, Dammam King Fahd Int'l Airport (DMM). You'll need to take a taxi (US$20, 15 minutes). The second option is Bahrain and a bus over the causeway connecting the island of Bahrain to Al Khobar (60 minutes).

Many expats learn to love the city. Dhahran makes it  very comfortable for its expatriate workers, especially at a certain level.

For schools, it's likely you'll be taking a trip to Dammam or Khobar, where there are a number of excellent US, UK and IB curricula schools. Click here for the full listing of international schools in the Dammam spread.

For accommodation, we suspect that Aramco will have that covered for you. If you're not an Aramco employee, you should call in a relocation guide to help you. Click here for a listing of Saudi based relocation companies

Dhahran is the kind of place the creeps up on you, and if you end up being there long enough really gets under your skin and takes hold. That applies particularly to kids that grow up in the safety of its suburbia who can never quite shake the place, even after finally getting away to the likes of London or New York - cities they have dreaming of escaping to throughout their trouble-free adolescence. 

Dhahran Ratings





Family Friendly


Transport Links


Dhahran Pros & Cons


Safe, secure
Lots of facilities on the compounds
Part of the Dammam spread
Dominated by Oil and Aramco
Close to beaches, resorts, Bahrain


Dominated by Oil and Aramco
Can feel like a goldfish bowl
Restrictions outside compounds

Latest Saudi Arabia articles
Exam Preparation

A Parents' Guide to the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4)

The new academic year is now well underway, and your child may be preparing to sit a CAT4 …

Which Curriculum

Which Pre-school is Right for My Child?

It may seem like only yesterday you were swaddling your little one – and now they&rs…

Choosing A School

The School Visit: What to Ask

Beech Hall School Riyadh is among the many private schools in Saudi offering personal visi…


Record Numbers Get Uni Place Via Clearing

A record number of UK 18-year-olds have secured a place at a UK university using Clearing.…

School Performance

Top UK Boarding Schools for A Level Results

The top five boarding schools in the UK for A Levels results in 2023 are Oxford Internatio…

Choosing A School

Top 10 UK Independent Schools for BTECs

BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council – named after the body which first …


Checkmate: Why Chess Should Be Taught In Schools

Schools worldwide, including the Overseas Family School in Singapore, recognise that chess…

School Performance

On-screen GCSEs: Are They a Success?

Thousands of students received their results this summer after sitting traditional pen-and…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All