Dhahran North Construction Camp, 1979
Dhahran North Office Complex was a collection of twenty large, temporary office buildings located about half a mile from the residential camp. They certainly weren’t as swish as the more glamorous steel and glass offices on the main camp complex, but at least I didn’t have far to commute.
The office buildings were large, square portables standing on steel girder frames some four feet off the ground. They were built from separate sections and could typically accommodate around eighty people. Each building was assigned a number and mine was No.17. My office was situated along one of the outer walls and had a small window and a door out onto a corridor which ran around the building. On the inside of the corridor in the centre of the building were the open plan, or ‘bullpen’ areas as they were called by the Americans, which were occupied by lower grade employees and contractors.
Dhahran North Office Complex, 1979
In many ways, the working environment was not so different to that at home, but every now and again I was forcefully reminded just which part of the world I was in. One such occasion happened after I had been there just a couple of weeks. On an otherwise quiet, hot afternoon, there came a knock on my office door and a diminutive Saudi policeman, clad in khaki put his head around. He clearly spoke little or no English, but gestured politely to me that he might be allowed to come in.
The author in his office - Building 17 Dhahran North, 1980
I immediately got up from my chair and ushered him in, but noticed as he entered my office, that one of his wrists was handcuffed to someone else. The other handcuff was attached to the wrist of a westerner who followed him into the room. He was further handcuffed to yet another policeman and the three of them shuffled into my small office. Shuffle was the appropriate word as I saw to my horror that in addition to the handcuffs, the westerner was also shackled around his ankles.
The three of them eventually manoeuvred themselves towards the seats and I gestured for them to sit down. As the policemen spoke no words of English, it was left to their prisoner who turned out to be an American, to explain exactly how he came to be in this situation. In the meantime and ever conscious of Arab hospitality, I called for the tea-boy and had him bring cups of tea for them. It was certainly entertaining to watch three men trying to drink tea while handcuffed together.’
About the Author
Stuart Crocker was born in Yorkshire in 1952. Graduating from university in 1975, he began a career in England, but in 1979, looking for greater adventure, took up an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia. He spent the remainder of his career within the oil industry and travelled extensively throughout the region. Now retired, his memoir reflects his intimate contact with the many aspects of Arab culture.