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Udhailiyah (Arabic: العضيلية ʿuḍayliyyah) is a small oil company compound in the interior of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia located in the desert southwest of the Dhahran-Dammam-Khobar metropolitan area. Built by the national oil company Saudi Aramco, Udhailiyah has a population of approximately 1,350 residents. Udhailiyah can also be seen with the spellings Udeliya, Udayliyah, and other variations with the same phonetics.
Udhailiyah compound (Aramco code: UDH) is the smallest of four residential compounds built by Saudi Aramco, including Dhahran (the main administrative center), Ras Tanura (the main refinery and oil port), and Abqaiq. It is the southernmost and most isolated of the four communities, Abqaiq being its closest Saudi Aramco compound to the north, about an hour away by car. To the northeast is the city of Hofuf and the expansive Al-Hasa oasis. Udhailiyah takes its natural character from the numerous rocky hills or outcroppings, called "jebels", that surround it. The tallest and most popular Jebel is "Pioneer Mountain." An equally popular and impressive jebel is named "747" due to its likeness of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.
Similar to the other three compounds, Udhailiyah is surrounded by multiple perimeter fences, Saudi Aramco employees and their dependents live inside. The community today is a multi-ethnic mosaic of Saudis, Americans, other Arab nationalities (e.g. Egyptian and Jordanian), Indians, Pakistanis, etc. - all of whom live with English as the common language.
Udhailiyah camp has amenities including swimming pools, weight rooms (separate for males and females), dining halls, golf course (oil-sand greens), tennis facilities, squash and racquetball courts, library and a commissary (small grocery store). There is also the Wahat Al-Ghawar, a large, air-conditioned tent used for company and social events. Udhailiyah is heavily planted with green spaces and open parks with large trees and extensive irrigation.
The camp was originally a bachelor camp set up for drilling crews. In the late seventies it was expanded extensively to accommodate family status western employees. Beginning in 1977, the camp began taking in additional family status employees as the Gas Gathering Program began to take shape. Providing housing for Aramco's Gas Projects Division and their principal contractors, Fluor Arabia, Santa Fe, C.E. Lummus, and others, the camp expansion was designed by a California architecture firm that included green belts, adobe style town houses, and a new Kindergarten through ninth grade school. The camp thrived until it was "mothballed" in the late eighties following the completion of Phase IIA of the Gas Program. The camp was reopened in the early nineties near the end of Operation Desert Storm. In the years following Desert Storm, management kept the camp open and quietly played down any connection between Western personnel and the US military presence in the kingdom. The first residents of the newly reopened camp were faced with the daunting task of making this ghost town feel like home. For the first year, the Udhailiyah school operated with more teachers than students, but these "pioneers" made the most of the situation. Udhailiyah had originally been built to accommodate far more people than were now housed there. There was no traffic, there were no lines, just a comforting quiet reminiscent of small town America. Udhailiyans became very proud of the community.
After 2001 the growth of radical elements in the kingdom culminating in acts of terrorism against Aramco and contractor facilities and an undermining of employee morale forced the company to appeal to the government for an armed security presence around all of its camps, including this remote location. A reinforced company sized detachment of Saudi National Guard forces equipped with Cadillac-Gage Commando armored vehicles was set up at intervals around the camp perimeter. The camp was never attacked or known to have been surveyed by any radical organizations. Normal Camp operation was unaffected.
The many service companies that do work for Aramco may have their own compounds in the nearby Uthmaniyah Contractor Park. The Udhailiyah compound is reserved for family status Saudi Aramco employees and selected family status contractor employees
There is a small single strip airport near Udhailiyah (Udhayliyah Airport) operated by Saudi Aramco and not open for commercial air traffic. Saudi Aramco also utilizes the nearby airport in Hofuf which is 30 km away from Udhailiyah which now operates international flights to regional destinations such as Dubai and Doha. Full international air transportation is available at the King Fahd International Airport which is about 190 km away.
- Saudi Aramco
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