First Time in Dammam

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Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Dammam
April 25th 2009
Published: April 25th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

The Spice StoreThe Spice StoreThe Spice Store

It doesn't get better than this!
Today was a great day! I went to the city of Dammam for the very first time. There weren’t any Aramco buses that travel on Saturday (today is an Aramco holiday), so I chartered a van for six of us (Bob, Glyn, Adrian, Eric, Don and me). This was a great way to do it because it cost each of us less than $4 each way. Transportation is pretty inexpensive here. The van driver was going to wait for three hours for us to do our thing in Dammam, but we convinced him to come back and meet us at 12:30 pm for the ride back.

Glyn had a map of Dammam which worked out well until we saw there were two sets of streets. From north to south the streets were labeled 12th Street, 11th Street, etc. However, from south to north they also were labeled Street 12, Street 12 etc. on different sides of the avenues. So the numbers got higher and lower at the same time. Hmmmm. You come to expect stuff like that after awhile. So we went with our own directions: to the right of King Khalid Avenue and to the left of King Khalid

Isn't this incredible?

I had done some internet research on Dammam this. I found out it’s the capital of the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. I found one or two Virtual Tourist entries, a history in Wikipedia and that’s about it. That’s not to say that it’s boring. FAR from it. However, this place is really off the radar. It’s just north of Khobar, about 30 minutes from Aramco's location in Dhahran. It’s has about 500,000 people and it is truly an authentic Saudi city. It was great!

This is one of those places where you say “I’m not in Kansas anymore!” We were there for three hours and I did not see even one other western person other than us. We saw the open-air rug and textile markets. I bought a prayer rug for 10 riyals, which is about $3 US! It isn’t really worth negotiating a price down from $3.00. Bob bought a prayer rug that was quoted at 20 riyals. When he paid 20, the merchant said it was three more riyals. So Bob seemed to be negotiating in the wrong direction. However, I told him that I think it’s worth it for the story.

Bike StoreBike StoreBike Store

This is on top of a building that we saw driving into Dammam. But I have no idea why.
saw mosques that were incredible and I have a few photos. We went into one store that was a spice store that sold bulk spices and nuts. Penzey’s eat your heart out. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it smelled.

We came across a HUGE building that was a city block big. It had 12 foot solid walls and guards all around. Finally we came to the front and saw beautiful fountains and shrubbery. We asked the guard what it was, but he didn’t really answer. When I went up to the gated fence to look, he was NOT pleased. I knew enough not to risk a photo, but apparently looking is not appreciated. We retreated quickly! Later, we found out it was the Eastern Province capital building. If you need to ask, you shouldn't be there.

The other thing we noticed is that there were concentrated areas of stuff. For example, 15 cell phone stores in a row, 10 bathroom fixture stores, groups of hardware stores, etc. The automobile traffic was typical Saudi style. That means you have to buy a separate insurance policy when you cross each street. The drivers don’t stop for anything, so
Mystery Bike!Mystery Bike!Mystery Bike!

It's NOT a bike store.
you’d better RUN, even if you have the light and are at an intersection. They had divided one way streets (which is most odd) and cars would turn into both sides. Other cars were going straight and still others were doing U-turns. Picture New York City without any rules.

I stopped at a hotel and asked when prayer time was and was told noon. I was very proud of myself for remembering to ask knowing that at prayer time everything closes including restaurants. We finally spotted a restaurant at 11:45, right as they were locking the doors and shuttering the windows. So being smug about having my advance knowledge didn’t payoff one bit since apparently apparently they close 15 minutes before prayer time. So much to learn!

However, we retreated back to the hotel and found that the coffee shop was open and that they served pizza. When in Dammam, eat pizza I guess. Don, Bob and I devoured two pizzas and pop. I told the waiter that we were in a hurry and could he give us the bill since we only had about 15 minutes once the pizza came. He kept telling me “don’t worry, take all the time you want.” The communication thing wasn’t happening. Don, Bob, and I bolted and moved quickly back to the appointed spot. We arrived exactly at 12:30, the van was there, and so was Eric, Adrian, and Glyn.

Upon coming back, we all needed to head over to the SAC Center for a “calibration exercise.” That means listening to a mock exercise and scoring it to see if everyone comes up with the same scores. I made signs with numbers (1.0, 1.5, 2.0, etc.) for people to hold up so it was like the Olympics. “And the Belgian judge gives it a 3.5, the Swiss judge gives it 3.0.” It worked amazingly well and the French judge (Eric, who lives in France) could not be bribed!

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 25


This is us trying to figure out the streetsThis is us trying to figure out the streets
This is us trying to figure out the streets

Why do the street numbers go up and down at the same time?
Gulf Gas StationGulf Gas Station
Gulf Gas Station

I have finally figured out why it's called GULF gas. Gulf, as in Arabian Gulf.
Looking at Prayer RugsLooking at Prayer Rugs
Looking at Prayer Rugs

Bob, you are supposed to get the price DOWN!
The Spice StoreThe Spice Store
The Spice Store

I recognized many of these, perhaps you will too.
Open buckets of grainOpen buckets of grain
Open buckets of grain

Not sure what these are, but they were in the spice store too.
Nuts for SaleNuts for Sale
Nuts for Sale

And this side of the store had bulk nuts.
This is a good overall viewThis is a good overall view
This is a good overall view

This is what Dammam really looks like.

26th April 2009

So cool! OK, a couple questions. I notice that you're usually wearing a long sleeve shirt--it's got to be super hot! Do you have to wear a long sleeve shirt in public? Spice market looks so neat--did you buy anything or try the nuts? Can't remember if you've told us how much gas costs there--it's got to be like 2 cents a gallon!
27th April 2009

Ted's FAQ's
eve, good questions. 1. I'm trying to look less American. Therefore I try not to wear jeans, a pull-over (or T-shirt), or sneakers. Obviously I'm going to be seen as a Westerner, but I'm trying to be as low key as possible. However, we were advised not to wear shorts or short sleeve shirts (could be offensive). None of this is true in the Aramco compound, where things are looser. However, I would leave your halter top at home. 2. Spice Store: I didn't buy anything other than a bottle of water. I know I can't bring back any open food (through customs) and I don't have that big a need for cardomon pods here at Steineke Hall! 3. Gas Prices: Last time I was here, I tried to work this out, going from Saudi Ryals and a measure in liters, to Australian dollars (I was talking to Anthea), and then to US dollars and liters. We came up with 20 cents a gallon. However, just today I was talking to a Participant who seemed pretty good with math and he came up with 40 cents per gallon. So that's probably correct. They don't post the prices on big signs, so I haven't even seen the price in Riyals. However, in February I saw a Hummer taxi cab in Khobar!!!
28th April 2009

Dam, man, that was awesome!
Loved your coverage of Dammam and all the photos. Missy G.
28th April 2009

Thanks, Missy. I really enjoyed Damman and I'm glad I went. I have to think up something for this weekend (Thursday and Friday).
4th January 2010

damam is good
what is damam city.
5th January 2010

Dammam is the capital of the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest cities in Saudi Arabia that borders the Arabian (Persian) Gulf.
6th September 2011

I have been to Jeddah, and it was neat to see your comments on dammam. As salaam alaykum
30th December 2012

Hi, you should have gone to Dammam Corniche and the Perfume District. Dammam is a very large City, one day is not enough. The most exciting day to visit Dammam is Friday when it's filled with South Asians. You'll think that you're lost in New Delhi.
14th November 2014

Even i never visit Dammam city,I love with your story.may I know you went to Dammam foir business or holiday ?
14th November 2014

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I was in Saudi Arabia for business with Saudi Aramco, but I went to Dammam over the weekend as a tourist.

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