© Anushka Bose. All rights reserved.*

The Snack Bar: The Aramco Delicacy
Enjoying a cola on Christmas Eve during a winter break with one of my good friends from Dhahran. December 24th, 2013/ Dhahran Hills Snack Bar

While growing up in Saudi, I distinctly remember one feature of the compounds that I have never encountered anywhere else: snack bars. No matter which compounds you were on: Dhahran, Abqaiq, Ras Tanura, or Udhailiyah, the snack bar was the stop in town to catch a tasty meal after swimming or an afterschool sport. Many parents would pick up a pizza for their kids, whilst the younger kids would be waiting in line to order the orange slushy (me included). In Dhahran, I remember frequenting the Dhahran Hills Snack Bar, the one by the Middle School, and the one by the Rolling Hills Golf Course (which eventually closed). The one by the Middle School also had a Joffreys Coffee House in the same area, behind the Tennis Courts as far as I remember it. For the longest time, I was not aware there was a Joffreys, but once I figured it out, I would frequent it often to buy their delicious Shirley Temples.

When I would travel to Ras Tanura, I remember visiting the Surf House, which was the snack bar by the beach. Even though these snack bars were not full of fancy options, they held some of the tastiest foods that I remember as a child. Nothing sounded better than a chicken burger with fries after school, coming straight out of volleyball or basketball practice. The slushies were also saviors during summer when the heat would feel crushing. In Dhahran, however, the Golf Course Snack Bar was distinctly different from the Dhahran Hills and 3rd Street Snack Bars. The Golf Course Snack Bar had different menu options from what I remember. They had a delicious chicken club sandwich, and the open glass windows of the snack bar allowed you to have a good view of the beautifully green and expansive Golf Course. I remember my friends and family were quite confused when the Golf Course Snack Bar closed down. It was shortly before El-Chicos was being built in that area.

I also recall that the Dhahran Hills Snack Bar would host a barbecue/grilling day every Thursday (I believe) for many years. I’m not sure which service/food company was in charge of it, maybe it was the snack bar itself, but they would make the best shish-taouk (and other items I forget the name of!) that my dad would bring over to us in our Safaniya house after work.

When I would travel to the other compounds for volleyball or basketball tournaments, I remember how we all congregated at the snack bar after our exhausting day-long games. The coaches would also make a stop at the commissary, and we would all get down and buy some snacks and get back on the bus.

While the snack bars were objectively an everyday location to get some food, for the kids who grew up in Aramco the snack bars became a spot for afterschool stops, weekend stops, and a hangout place with friends. The bonding over slushies, burgers, pizza and all kinds of other menu items embellished the everyday experience that so many of us kids grew up with. Every snack bar location had a little bit of a different vibe, and the menu items were nothing fancy, but who knew that such simple menu items could bring so much joy?

Question for readers:

What menu items were your favorite from the Snack Bars? I wish I could remember all that they sold because there were some unique items, but I cannot remember them.

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Anushka is a Graduate Student at Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She spent her youth growing up in Dhahran, where she attended Dhahran Elementary, Dhahran Middle School, and Dhahran Academy. She loves learning about new cultures and is fascinated by the diversity that brings us all together, especially the expatriate community, where the only thing that is common is that we are all different, in culture, religion, and the perspectives we hold. One day she hopes to publish a book on the third culture kid experience. Dhahran holds a big place in her heart.


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