Course at Saudi Aramco, Dhahran, March 2018
My flight schedule for this trip to Dammam was Calgary to Frankfurt, and then catch a connecting Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Dammam via Riyadh, where, in addition to alighting passengers, the plane also gets refueling done. So, I caught the evening (6 pm) Air Canada flight from Calgary to Frankfurt, but for some unknown reason it was delayed by some 45 minutes. The layover at Frankfurt was short (1 hour and 10 minutes), and so I was apprehensive that my checked in suitcase may not get loaded onto the next flight. On reaching Frankfurt, I was surprised to find two Lufthansa attendants waiting for two of us passengers, still on the sky bridge, and asking us if we were going to Dammam. They took us both in a sparkling van, and whisked us through the airport ground traffic to the gate for our connecting Lufthansa flight to Dammam. That saved us not only time, but the hassle in going through inside the airport and finding our way to the appropriate gate. For me, this service, as rendered by the Lufthansa ground staff was very creditable and professional. The airplane attendants on our next flight were very caring and polite, and I would recommend this flight to anyone. Very surprisingly, on reaching Dammam, I found my suitcase also arriving on the carousel belt, as I came out of immigration check. I was really grateful for it. It was a smooth taxi ride thereafter to Steineke Hall guest residence on Saudi Aramco campus, where I was scheduled to stay for the next six days.
Steineke Hall guest residence is situated on Saudi Aramco campus, and is very convenient to get to the offices, wherever the work assignment is. The residence is dedicated to Aramco’s famous pioneer, Max Steineke, and originally (opened in 29th June, 1952) consisted of 23 rooms. Over the years, it has seen many renovations, and today has 123 rooms. Some framed pictures of Max Steineke hand at the entrance of the residence, near the reception.
A native of coastal Oregon town of Brookings in the US, and a 1921 graduate of Stanford University, Max Steineke arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1934, and was the Chief Geologist at Aramco from 1936 to 1946, and carried out pioneering work along with some others during 1936 and 1937. Through his vision, enthusiasm and undiminishing optimism, he had carried out his early work over the Dammam Dome, and the Abqaiq Field that led to large oil discoveries. Steineke went back to his home country, US, due to his ailing health, but remained a consultant for Aramco for many years. He received the AAPG Sidney Powers Memorial Award in 1951, “For distinguished and outstanding achievements in petroleum geology, both as a field geologist and as a friendly and energetic leader in petroleum exploration, resulting in the discovery of vast petroleum resources of Saudi Arabia”. Steineke’s pioneering work laid the geological foundation on which Aramco was later successfully built.
Having come to Dammam from cold Calgary, I liked the pleasant weather during the mornings, though it would get warmer in the afternoons. To make the best of the nice weather, I would go for my morning walks, even though I had to be in my class by 7:30 am. Every morning I would take a different route for my walk, and was quite surprised to see how well the lawns in front of the houses are maintained, what with water being sprayed on them through underground pipes by the time I would set out. There is a very nice Dhahran Recreation Park a short distance from Steineke Hall, and situated alongside Canyon Road, with fountains, lush green gardens and where I found other people coming for their morning walks.
Along the Canyon Road, the morning traffic is slower, and the trees standing on both sides of the road are well-maintained, with flower beds at many places blooming flowers giving a colourful look. There is also a nice landmark (called Jubail, as I was told by a passerby) of a not-so-tall waterfall from a rock, at the crossing of Canyon Road and Miller Road. The photos below explain it all. It is to Aramco’s credit that they have maintained their Campus so well. The majestic Mercedes Benz luxury coach buses plying on the campus roads is a common sight, and are available quite regularly.
The course started on Sunday morning, as the working week for Aramco is Sunday to Thursday. The course would finish by 3:30 pm every day, and I would come back to my room and rest a bit and get up nice and fresh again. The 5 days flew by fast, and the interesting interactions with the participants made it even more satisfying. The participants were a mix of backgrounds, some with geology, and others with geophysics, from processing and interpretation experience ranging from 3 to 15 years. But one thing that was at display in my class was the enthusiasm of each participant, which makes each lesson very encouraging and motivating.
My return journey was comfortable. I took the late night (10:50 pm) flight from Dammam to Riyadh, and after a layover of about an hour, on to Frankfurt. We arrived there at 8 am local time, with the morning haze still making the atmosphere somewhat misty as you see in the photos below.
I had a long layover (6.5 hours) at Frankfurt, and so relaxed in the lounge, watching a couple of movies. The next flight to Calgary was delayed by over an hour, as strong winds were gusting over the runway, and as the captain said, they were advised to wait. Once the plane took off, the flight was smooth throughout. After a long 9-hour flight we finally arrived to cold snowy Calgary.
It was good to be back home after being away for 9 days.