Since September 22, 1932, when the Kingdom of the Hijaz and Najd and its dependencies - unified under King 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Sa'ud - was renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the country has been transformed.
Starting as a nomadic and pastoral society largely unknown in Europe and beyond, it has become a primary source of the world's energy and a pivotal factor in Middle Eastern political and economic equations, and today is involved in a concerted effort to modernize and industrialize an entire country in just a few years.
As the statistics in this issue of Aramco World suggest, this attempt, launched in 1970, is enormous; it has already absorbed close to $150 billion allocated between 1975 and 1980, the period of its second development plan, and under the third and current five-year plan will require at least $200 billion more - nearly eight times the amount spent by the United States to put men on the moon six times.
Such programs, obviously, are impressive. As London's Financial Times said: "There has rarely been a society exposed to such dramatic change, development and reorganization as Saudi Arabia is today"
If the statistics are impressive, however, they also tend to obscure the simple facts that measure the impact in human terms: the old tailor in Nariya adding an electric motor to his sewing machine after a lifetime of working it by hand; the grocer in a small Eastern Province town proudly displaying for the first time perishable goods and dairy products in his new, glass-fronted electric freezer; air conditioning in a village where hunting falcons still doze on a hitching rail in the afternoon sun.
The emphasis, nevertheless, is on the magnitude - and the pace. In October, for example, the Cavendish, a tanker, took on a shipment of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) at the new NGL (natural gas liquids) export terminal at Yanbu': 105,000 barrels of liquefied butane and 190,000 barrels of liquefied propane from the new NGL fractionation plant-which was opened in August. A milestone in the development of the new and vital coast-to-coast Master Gas System, this first east coast shipment suggests the size and speed of the kingdom's development; the terminal can handle some 200 ships a year and - because it cuts 12 days from the round trip to Europe - is a significant addition to Saudi Arabia's growing hydrocarbon energy outlets.
No one article, of course, or even a series of articles, can really capture the scope and magnitude of such unprecedented change; it defies both pen and camera. Contributing editor, John Lawton, therefore, focused on the fundamentals of the development program and limited his attention to projects that were actually completed or underway rather than those on the planning board. Lawton, a former UPI correspondent, was assisted by Aramco writer Arthur Clark with backup from Richard Hobson and the
Local Industrial Development Department in Dhahran. Photographs were provided by S.M. Amin - as well as Tor Eigeland, Burnett H. Moody, Aramco's chief photographer, M.E. Noble, Michael J. Isaac, Tomas Sennett, Aileen Vincent-Barwood, John De Bry The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu', Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Petroline.
-- The Editors