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DHAHRAN: Across the smooth road overlooking the chopped clapboard houses with manicured lawns of Aramco Camp is a tranquil time capsule where heritage and nostalgia collide.

Located at 12th Street and Ibis Avenue, Houses 1220 and 1222—among the first to be built at Camp Dhahran in 1938—renovated historic houses now house the Community Heritage Gallery.

It feels like being welcomed into someone’s home.

The juxtaposition of modern elements with historical objects and memorabilia creates a distinctive atmosphere. (AN photos)

It was originally occupied by Dr. TC Alexander and his family in the 1940s. He was perhaps best known for being one of the earliest resident doctors to move to Dhahran to work and live.

He helped initiate a regional vaccination program and helped Aramco’s healthcare system flourish during his tenure. Alexander’s wife, who wanted to make her own way within the community, hosted the inaugural meeting of the Dhahran Women’s Group in their home in 1946, a group that is still active today.

HIGHLIGHT

Aramco is famous for finding black gold here in the 1930s and changing the history of the Kingdom and the world overnight.

Later, Fouad Saleh, executive director of community services, championed the creation of a so-called “Saudi Aramco museum”—a place where the history of Aramco and its people would be preserved and displayed for the community to enjoy. relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

The juxtaposition of modern elements with historical objects and memorabilia creates a distinctive atmosphere. (AN photos)

Saleh’s vision was realized long after the Sándores moved out. Their former home has officially become a gallery focusing on heritage and Aramco artefacts and opened to the public in 1992.

The opening was attended by Hisham Nazer, then Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saudi Aramco, and Aramco’s first ever Saudi Chairman, Ali Al-Naimi, who was also the CEO at the time.

Al-Naimi started at the company in the late 1940s and rose through the ranks to become Aramco’s chairman from 1984 to 1995. His 2016 autobiography, Out of the Desert: My Journey from Nomadic Beduin to the Heart of Global Oil, is prominently displayed on the Heritage Gallery bookshelf.

There are other books on the shelves, many of which have been donated.

Hassan Bouholaigah, a Saudi creative who grew up in Dhahran and now lives in Riyadh, was walking around the neighborhood in his spare time when he stumbled upon the Heritage Gallery.

“I’m on vacation, visiting family.” I grew up in Aramco, so just walking around was very nostalgic,” Bouholaigah told Arab News. “I happened to see a classic red car parked outside, so I was a bit intrigued and decided to go in.”

When he entered, he noticed framed pictures of former Aramco presidents on the wall.

“It was very interesting for me to see the transition. And then the next thing that caught my attention was just the library, which basically had a lot of yearbooks,” he said. Although he didn’t go to Aramco school himself, he was delighted to pull out a 7th grade yearbook from 2008 that contained pages about friends he played ball with after school. He quickly snapped photos to send to his friends, some of whom are still in touch today.

He also appreciated how the gallery diversified beyond the obvious corporate artwork and showcased community culture and its wider contribution to local society.

“I love that they don’t just focus on oil. You can see pictures of where the first house was built for the Saudis. You can see some pictures of the secondary schools – the first female school built in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The juxtaposition of modern elements with historical objects and memorabilia creates a distinctive atmosphere that serves as a time capsule for the community and the country.

Aramco is famous for finding black gold here in the 1930s and changing the history of the Kingdom and the world overnight. The gallery presents various milestones that the company has achieved over the decades.

Wandering through the space, it’s clear that Aramco’s influence extends beyond oil, contributing significantly to the social and cultural fabric of the region and beyond.

Seeing the development of the community through these objects was a poignant reminder of how the company has shaped life and wider social change over the decades. The nostalgic feelings of the “Aramco kids” – who grew up in the camp – reflect the strong sense of identity and community that has developed over the years. Many returned to donate books and yearbooks to the gallery as a tribute to the space that helped shape them.

There is even a majlis at the back that people can rent for private events or watch Aramco-produced movies from their library.

The Heritage Gallery is across the street from the Dhahran Recreation Library and does not require tickets.

The gallery is open Sunday through Wednesday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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