Reigned 1953 – 1964
As Crown Prince, King Sa‘ud visited Company operations in December of 1937 and again in 1950, visiting a trade school where he witnessed young Saudis learning the skills needed for the petroleum trade – an early example of the transformation taking place in Saudi society, as the sons of pearl fishermen, merchants, farmers and Bedouin began to climb the ladder that would take them to the top of Aramco within two generations.
In January 1953, King Sa‘ud, then Crown Prince, issued a royal proclamation granting Saudi workers substantial increases in benefits, helping address the disparity between Saudis and expatriate employees of Aramco. The next month, he sealed an agreement with Aramco whereby the Company would build and pay the expenses of 10 public schools in
the Eastern Province – the beginning of the Aramco-built Government Schools Program. The program was championed by a young King Fahd, then Education Minister.
The first school opened in Dammam, in December 1954, and King Sa‘ud presided over the ceremonies. Three days later, he opened the second Aramco built Government School in al-Khobar. Ultimately, 139 boys and girls schools were built under the program, and Saudi Aramco maintains the schools in top shape to this day.
During the reign of King Sa‘ud, signifi cant achievements were made by Aramco both in the development of the Saudi workforce and in Saudi society. On the societal front, in 1953 Aramco launched Al-Qafi lah (The Oil Caravan) at a time when Arabic publications were few and far between in Saudi Arabia. Many contemporary authors in the Arab world were inspired by Al-Qafi lah to become writers and for many others, the magazine was a source of intellectual fermentation. Four years later, Aramco TV went on the air, becoming the first Arabic-language station in the Kingdom and the second in the Middle East. Aramco broadcast a variety of educational programming, including mathematics, chemistry and language skills.
In the Founder’s Footsteps
Visiting a trade school, Dhahran, 1950
Visiting Aramco, Dhahran, 1950
Opening the first Aramco-built Government school, Dammam, 1954
Departing Dhahran, 1957
Great strides were made in the advancement of Aramco’s Saudi workforce, including building the first training centers for Saudis in 1955. In 1959, Aramco began sending promising young Saudi employees to study at U.S. colleges and universities. That same year, in October, King Sa‘ud announced his support for the creation of schools for girls nationwide and in 1961, Aramco agreed to extend its commitment to building schools for sons of Saudi employees to include daughters as well.
Change was occurring at the top of Aramco as well. In 1959, the first two Saudis – Abdullah H. alTariki and Hafi z Wahbah – were appointed to Aramco’s Board of Directors. In the last few years of King Sa‘ud’s reign, two significant milestones in the history of the petroleum industry were reached, one on the global stage and one at home. In 1960, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was formed.
Three years later, King Sa‘ud issued a Royal Decree creating the College of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran. The university, now known as King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, and Saudi Aramco have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship, with the university conducting research vital to the Company’s success and many of its graduates enjoying long careers with the Company.