After last week’s run in cold and cloudy Stuttgart this time I can report from a much different and less conventional climate, namely Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. To be more specific from the walled Dhahran Camp, the site of Saudi Aramco’s main residential area and their headquarters.
Saudi Aramco (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Aramco) is the world’s largest petroleum company. 100% owned by the state (i.e. Saudi Royal Family) and owning world’s largest proven oil reserves is is undoubtedly the world’s most valuable company. While it wasn’t my first visit at Saudi Aramco, it was the first with the intention to do some running there.
Saudi Arabia is not known to be one of the most liberal countries, for example because of things such as death penalty for the possession of drugs, cutting off a thief’s hand, complete ban on alcohol and pork consumption, complete ban on practising religions other than Islam, ban on women’s driving or requirement for women to fully cover their bodies/faces/hair. These rules are generally quite strictly enforced in the whole country, except for gated communities such as Dhahran Camp (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Aramco_Residential_Camp_in_Dhahran), where the Saudi police and the notorious religious police Muttaween have essentially no access. I had the opportunity to stay at Dhahran Camp for a couple of nights and indeed it felt quite different from the world outside of the wall and barbed wire. And that’s why I had anticipated that I’d be able to run there.
Over the last 3 years I’ve visited Saudi Arabia probably around 10 times and I kind of got used to the temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 degrees Celsius. Surprisingly, it’s quite mild and pleasant around Persian Gulf in early March- the temperatures range from 15 degrees at night to 25-28 during the day, so for the first time in Saudi Arabia I was actually not dying to get from one air-conditioned place to another and instead could enjoy some warmth and the sun outside. That’s why in the afternoon while it was around 20-22 degrees I went for a short run.
The run itself was actually nothing fancy- neither far, nor fast, not even any altitude gain. It was just a leisurely run around Dhahran Camp to see how it looks and perhaps to find a nice running route for the next time. My impression of the Camp? It seems to me like a small part of California in the Middle East. Buildings, roads, vegetation, road signs or cars all remind me of places such as Palo Alto in California, which actually makes sense taking into consideration Saudi Aramco’s history and its US roots.
As far as a nice running route is concerned I actually found one! The next day I put on my running gear again and set off for a run of a similar distance, but a bit earlier in the day which meant still blazing sun and temperature close to 30 degrees- much harder work! The route is called ‘Dhahran Golf Course Fitness Trail’ and, living up to its name, it encircles a local golf course.
Indeed a good place for a run because there are no intersections and roads to cross, plus you get to see some greenery and some water so I’ll definitely go back there when I visit Dhahran Camp again.
My next blog post will also be about Saudi Arabia, this time however from a place that’s on the coast of the Red Sea rather than the Persian Gulf.
All the best, Marcin