Dammam - Saudi Arabia

With its large expat community and the King Fahd Causeway connecting Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, Dammam is the most cosmopolitan city in the country. This is reflected not only in accommodations and dining options, but also in cultural institutions.

Dammam, in eastern Saudi Arabia, is the country's fastest growing city. This has everything to do with the oil industry: this is where black gold was first discovered, in 1936, after which Saudi Arabia grew to become the largest oil producer in the world. As a result, the metropolis of Dammam is home to one of the largest expat communities in the country.

That cosmopolitan character is reflected not only in Dammam's accommodations and dining options, which are a lot more versatile than in other parts of Saudi Arabia, but especially in cultural center Ithra, also known as the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. The futuristic structure houses a theater, a library with 270,000 titles in Arabic and English, a cinema that hosts the Saudi Film Festival every year, a museum that includes a collection of Islamic and Middle Eastern art and changing exhibitions. Ithra is considered the cultural highlight of Dammam.

Equally versatile is Scitech, a center for science and technology that stimulates the brains of both young and adult researchers. In six halls, you will explore technical topics such as electricity, sound waves and robots. But you will also learn more about nature on (and above) the Arabian Peninsula. In the observatory, you will peer at the stars through a telescope, while in another room you will shrink down to bacteria size, and explore the human body.

In the Wonders of Science hall, things get even more interactive. Here you can experiment with magnets and lasers. In the aquarium you will learn all about majestic jellyfish, rays and other underwater creatures from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Cooling down by the water in Dammam

Dammam's coastal location, with green parks and a welcome sea breeze, makes it a pleasant destination even in the middle of winter, with temperatures often just above 20 degrees. The Corniche, the boulevard between the port of Dammam and the King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain, is popular with joggers and families. Among the palms, dancing fountains and historic water tower, you will find restaurants and coffee shops overlooking the Persian Gulf.

During sunset, you can take a private boat out on the water. But getting into the water is also possible, of course. For this, head to Half Moon Bay, just south of Dammam. This used to be an important resting place for Arab traders; today the shallow bay with an average depth of seven meters is the ideal location to learn to dive, or to swim on a warm winter day.

Bahrain's neighbors

Dammam is a popular destination not only for its opera and theater performances in Ithra, but also for the King Fahd Causeway, a series of bridges totaling 25 kilometers in length that connects Dammam - Saudi Arabia with the freer and multicultural Bahrain. Expats like to hop across the border to their neighbors, with their growing arts and foodie scene. Whether you go for souk shopping, pearl diving in the Persian Gulf or mojitos in the capital Manama, a visit to Bahrain is an interesting weekend getaway for tourists visiting eastern Saudi Arabia.

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