In September 1979, Mark Lowey completed a nearly two-year stint working in the oil fields of the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia. Together with a colleague, he traveled to Kathmandu and then Pokhara, the gateway to the Himalayas’ Annapurna region in cemtral Nepal.
1953 is a memorable year in the history books. Most notably for Aramcons, it is the year when King Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, dies in the fall at the age of 73. His son, Crown Prince Saud, is named the new king by the royal family and another son, Faisal, is named crown prince.
Ken and Mildred Webster presented their younger daughter, Susan, with her own horse for her 12th birthday in January 1953. This was truly a momentous occasion in Susan’s childhood, as she was “horse crazy” from an early age and spent most of her free time riding and honing her horsemanship at The Hobby Farm for years prior to this special gift.
"The chief topic of conversation out here now is that the government has decreed NO MORE LIQUOR – ain't that something?" Crown Prince Saud pays a visit and Ken Webster and his daughters have an audience with him; Ken goes to Harvard Business School; Judy Webster graduates at top of her class from Dhahran Senior Staff School and goes to American Community School in Beirut.
In Part 1 of this story, we met Faisal Al Qahtani’s grandfather and his father, Salem Al Qahtani, and learned about their lives in the early 1900s. The story continues here in Part 2, as told by Faisal to Mark Lowey.
For Aramco, it is another year of record-breaking growth and oil production. And for Ken Webster, it is a year of exceptional professional achievement. In the spring of that year, he is appointed Dhahran District Manager, a post he will hold for more than six years.
"There is a rumor of a big stir-up out here!" Another job change and more responsibility for Ken Webster, the family’s first local leave, the opening of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, the continued expansion of Aramco in all parts of the Kingdom, and worldwide headlines for a former company secretary who swims the English Channel.
As Acting Manager of Aramco’s Transportation Department, Ken Webster embarks on many travels throughout Saudi Arabia in 1950 and describes them in detail to the folks back home in the States. From observations on the new Dammam deepwater port (a project to which his brother, Allyn, an assistant engineer, is assigned) to interesting descriptions of visits with Aramco exploration teams in the Empty Quarter, to tours of the King’s farms, to “lessons” in Muslim law and religious ceremonies, his fascination with and respect for the Arabs and Aramco shine through in every word.
In this piece, Mark Lowey chronicles the story of Faisal Al Qahtani, a young falconer from Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, who learned the ancient art of falconry – and life’s lessons – from his remarkable father.
In stark contrast to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and worldwide headlines describing fighting, bombings and the flight of up to half a million Palestinians from their homeland to refugee camps – sparked by the U.N. vote to partition the region two years earlier -- 1949 is a year of enormous expansion and success for Aramco, professional growth for Ken Webster and exotic travel for the Webster family.
The remainder of 1948 is full of exponential growth for Aramco (more than 4,000 American and 17,000 Arab employees by mid-year), royal and military visits, and a social schedule that would cripple most.
1948 shapes up to be another boom year for Aramco. Mildred Webster continues to chronicle her family's lives and interesting tales from Arabia. Ken Webster even manages to augment her faithful correspondence with a letter about some of his responsibilities as manager of Aramco's construction department.
Mildred Webster continues to be a faithful correspondent as she settles into the new house in Dhahran, works on committees and keeps up with the increasing “social whirl” that is expected of the wife of an up-and-coming Aramco executive.
In this piece, Mark Lowey chronicles the story of Desert Designs and its founders, Qamar Ahmed and Farid Bukhari, who own the unique, family-run interior design studio, home décor gift shop and art gallery, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that is dedicated to Saudi culture and Islamic design.
Mildred Webster, the official family “correspondent,” starts off the New Year of 1947 with a full report on Christmas activities in the camps, hopes for the family’s first home leave later in the year, and observations about her husband’s “playing” the Roupee market in Bahrain.
The summer and fall of 1946 turn out to be eventful times for Aramcons. Mildred Webster reports on a polio scare and resulting quarantine in Dhahran; Fourth of July celebrations in the camps; the continued arrival of wives and children from America; Arabia’s first American schoolhouse and the formation of the first Girl Scout troop in the Kingdom...
“It seems like we’ve always been here…” Mildred Webster (known to family and friends as “Mimi”) proves a very thorough, observant and entertaining correspondent. Throwing herself headlong into the new and exciting life of the Aramco camps, she still reports regularly...
Ken Webster began his oil industry career in 1931, shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Every now and then, AramcoExPats strikes gold with one of its features. Such was the case back in 2007 when we published a series of letters written by the late Ken Webster, who began his long service with Aramco in 1944, with World War II still raging.
In April 2014, my friend, Suhaim Alsy’ari, invited me to a special event in the desert. I first met Suhaim in 1978, when he was eight years old and I was 23. At that time, Suhaim and his family lived in a humble Bedouin encampment situated close to the remote Aramco construction site...