In the last 10 years the Public Relations Department of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) has received and entertained approximately 250,000 visitors at its Oil Exhibit Center in Dhahran, the company's headquarters, in Saudi Arabia.
The Oil Exhibit Center, which opened in 1963, and the traveling oil exhibits which have crisscrossed Saudi Arabia for 15 years (Aramco World , January-February, 1972) are efforts by Aramco to explain in detail to the Saudi Arab public and foreign visitors the industry which has played, and will continue to play, such a vital role in the life of the kingdom. The company has paid particular attention to school children, whose well-being and progress are directly affected by the ever-increasing economic benefits stemming from oil operations in the kingdom.
To a great extent, the program has been successful. At the Dhahran center nearly 170,000 curious Arab youngsters have seen the exhibit, and about 500,000 have visited the traveling exhibit. What was needed, however, was something in writing for the students to take home with them to refresh their memories of the highly technical details of one of the most complex of all industrial operations. Those responsible for the exhibits, therefore, recommended publication of a simple, colorful, but technically complete booklet summarizing for the young visitors in a more lasting form some aspects of what they had seen.
Such a booklet has just been published. It is called Ahmad and Oil and 50,000 copies were recently delivered in Dhahran for distribution to the school children who visit the Dhahran center or the traveling exhibit. It will also be sent to schools throughout the kingdom and to children (or their parents) in Saudi Arabia who write for it. Plans call for another printing if the booklet proves as popular as sponsors expect.
Ahmad and Oil is halfway between a textbook and a comic book. Planned and written by Ali Khalil, staff advisor on public relations, and illustrated by Don Thompson, one of the foremost designers and illustrators in the Middle East, the booklet draws upon the traditional Arab love of storytelling for its theme: a father, an employee of Aramco, taking his son, Ahmad, on a trip through the Eastern Province and explaining to the boy as he goes along how oil was formed, when it was first discovered, how it was used in ancient times, how Aramco finds, moves, processes and ships it and how it is used throughout the world today. The story is clear and simple, but complete, and the illustrations are not only technically exact, but—as the following pages suggest—also colorful and interesting.