Former Saudi oil workers and their ‘brats’ reunite in transformed Kingdom

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The reunion’s organizing committee lined up a program of more than 100 trips, events and activities which included visits to Al-Ula, Madain Saleh, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, Asir, Al-Ahsa and Shaybah. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 27 March 2019
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Former Saudi oil workers and their ‘brats’ reunite in transformed Kingdom

  • KSA witnesses a growing interest from expatriate retirees to revisit the country

JEDDAH: There’s no place like home for former Saudi Aramco workers and their families.
Hundreds of retired oil workers from around the world returned to Saudi Arabia for a special get-together in a country still close to their hearts.
The fourth KSA Expat Reunion attracted 540 “Aramcon” visitors from 20 countries for an 11-day trip to rekindle fond memories of living and working in the Kingdom and meet up with old friends and colleagues.
Reunion publicity manager, Alison Hooker, told Arab News that many of the ex-Aramco staff had traveled with their children and grandchildren, with the oldest member of the group aged 95.
At the start of their careers in Saudi Arabia it had been a big adventure, said Hooker, but as time went by “the Kingdom grew into their lives and hearts and became their ‘home,’ the place where their children were born and/or raised, and the place from which they gained a special sense of identity and belonging: Where they became known as an ‘Aramcon’ and their children as ‘Aramco Brats’.”
She added: “For many of the brats, Saudi Arabia will always be their ‘home’ and they are so grateful for the opportunity to return and rediscover their roots.”
The idea for the reunion began after retired Aramco executive Ali M. Baluchi, who left the company in 1990, attended a get-together in the US, and as the years passed, he noticed a growing interest from expatriate retirees to revisit the Kingdom.
“In 1998, Baluchi began gathering support for such a visit, lobbying not only the company, but also many local business leaders and government officials,” Hooker said. “Two years later he gathered 300 visitors in Saudi Arabia on the first in-Kingdom reunion. Subsequent reunions were held in 2009, 2015 and then March 11-21 this year.”
Baluchi’s greatest desire, she added, was for returning Aramcons and their families to experience a warm welcome while marveling at how the Kingdom has grown and changed — from observing the roles of women in the workplace to the expansion of tourism and top-quality entertainment.
While they enjoy reconnecting with their past, Baluchi hopes visitors leave with an even deeper affection for Saudi Arabia and its people, and a positive view of the dynamic future ahead for the Kingdom.
The majority of former Aramco employees on the latest trip were from the US, but others came from the UK, Australia, India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Jamaica.
“There were grandparents visiting with their grandchildren to proudly show them where they once worked,” said Hooker. “One couple, Roger and Amie Power from Oklahoma, were here on their honeymoon so Roger could show Amie where he grew up.”
The oldest visitor was Johnnie Guyon, 95, who first came to Saudi Arabia in 1947 with her Aramco driller husband Raymond ‘Tex’ Guyon. She was accompanied by her sons Steve and Chuck who arrived in the Kingdom with the couple as babies.
The reunion’s organizing committee lined up a program of more than 100 trips, events and activities which included visits to Al-Ula, Madain Saleh, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, Asir, Al-Ahsa and Shaybah.
Hooker said: “The events included a magnificent welcome dinner hosted by Aramco CEO Amin Nasser at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, and a reception hosted by the governor of the Eastern Province. The pre-planned activities included local tours to Dammam, Alkhobar, and Uqair. They also included a boat trip from Jubail, shopping and photographic excursions, special dinners, shows and lots more.”
She added that the visitors had been stunned by the progress and development in the Kingdom. “For some, it took a while to adjust. The most obvious change for all has been the status of women in the workforce. The master of ceremonies at the welcome dinner was one of the Kingdom’s first female firefighters, for instance. Seeing women driving was another amazing thing.”
Canadian Kathy Brown came with her international driving license just so she could experience driving in the Kingdom for the first time. “It was an amazing and freeing experience after years of having to rely on drivers to take me anywhere,” she said.
Hooker said it was the incredible warmth of traditional Saudi hospitality that had the biggest impact on the visitors.
“Whether over coffee and tea at a desert campfire or at a resort lunch, the welcome was phenomenal. So many commented on the kindness and generosity of the Saudi people they met. They definitely returned home as unofficial ambassadors for the Kingdom.” The next reunion is planned for 2023.


Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Mohamed Jafar and Hany Osman, cabin crew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels targeted
  • Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi says officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests

COLOMBO: Two Saudis were among 31 foreigners killed in a string of Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after the devastating attacks on hotels and churches killed at least 290 people and wounded nearly 500.

The extent of the carnage began to emerge as information from government officials, relatives and media reports offered the first details of those who had died. Citizens from at least eight countries, including the United States, were killed, officials said.

Among them were Saudis Mohammed Jafar and Hany Osman. They worked as cabin crew on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels that were hit.

Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi said that officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests on the two Saudi victims, and only after these are received will their names be confirmed.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Sri Lankan government believes the vast scale of the attacks, which clearly targeted the minority Christian community and outsiders, suggested the involvement of an international terrorism network.

“We don’t think a small organization can do all that,” he said. “We are now investigating international support for them and their other links — how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this.”

The attacks mostly took place during church services or when hotel guests were sitting down to breakfast. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, two people with US and UK dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the foreigners who were killed, a spokesman for the family confirmed. Povlsen is the wealthiest man in Denmark, the largest landowner in Scotland and owns the largest share of British online fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos.

Two Turkish engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka also died in the attacks, the English-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave their names as Serhan Selcuk Narici and Yigit Ali Cavus.

Fourteen foreign nationals remain unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said, adding that they might be among unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s morgue.

Seventeen foreigners injured in the attacks were still being treated at the Colombo National Hospital and a private hospital in the city, while others had been discharged after treatment.