Retirees, Aramco brats descend on Dhahran for fifth KSA Expat Reunion
This reunion, 450 participants will join nearly 2,000 retired Saudi employees for a CEO Luncheon at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).
Don’t be surprised if you see familiar faces around the Dhahran community that you last saw at their retirement masalamas. The fifth KSA Expat Reunion begins Wednesday (March 1), with 450 retired expatriate employees and their children — “Aramco Brats” — to spend the next 14 days reliving fond memories of their time living and working here.
“It is a pleasure to welcome Aramco’s expat family home,” says Ali M. Baluchi, reunion Steering Committee chairman.
We expect this to be one of our best reunion offerings to date. The local organizing committee has been working tirelessly for over a year to bring this two-week reunion to life.
— Ali M. Baluchi
Aramco has hosted four previous such reunions. The first of which was inspired by a comment shared with Baluchi at an Aramco reunion gathering in 1998 in Arizona.
Asked the question “Why not a reunion in Saudi Arabia?” Baluchi got the wheels rolling on what would become the first Saudi-based Expat Retiree Reunion in 2000. That reunion was followed by three more in 2009, 2015, and 2019.
“Altogether, around 2,000+ former employees and their families paid a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, representing 20 countries,” says Baluchi.
A gathering for the ages
The 2023 reunion offers something very exciting that hasn’t happened in previous years, says Baluchi. On March 2, the 450 reunion participants will join nearly 2,000 retired Saudi employees for a CEO Luncheon at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra). This will be the largest gathering of both retired expats and retired Saudis in Aramco’s history, he says.
“I encourage everyone to enjoy the various activities put together at Ithra and enjoy the day by reminiscing with old friends and co-workers, remembering the old and beautiful days,” says Baluchi.
REUNION BY THE NUMBERS
Number attending: 451
Number of countries: 22
Number of females: 244
Number of males: 209
Oldest retiree: 89
Youngest retiree: 59
Most service years: 40.9
Earliest badge number submitted: 934
Average retiree age: 71
Average service years: 23
Total accumulated service years: 3,102
Number of trips/activities offered: 120+
Number of volunteers: 100+
Positive differences, a mixture of memories
Kathy Owen is in Dhahran with members of her family, planning to remember the old and beautiful days.
“I’m just enjoying wandering around camp and seeing the changes and reflecting on how it was when I was in camp,” says Owen. “I’m seeing the positive differences, but there’s a mixture of memories coming back.”
Owen arrived in Dhahran in 1984 with her husband Tom, who was already employed in Dhahran, and had grown up in Dhahran himself as a multi-generational Aramco expat.
Prior to retirement in 2015, Owen says she had also been an active volunteer during the previous three retirement reunions, and attended the 2019 reunion with her husband as an annuitant.
The reunions have been important to help smooth the transition to saying goodbye. One day you’re here and the next day you’re back in the U.S.
— Kathy Owen
She recalled a recent family camping trip her family took in the U.S., one which did not live up to the kind of family camping they used to have in the Saudi desert. Being able to return for reunions helps bring some closure to the participants, many for whom in retirement, discover life is different after Aramco.
For Owen, she sees the reunions as a way for retirees to smooth the transition back home. But the reunion is also a time for old friends to get caught up with each other, and she admits looking forward to catching up with many friends.
Sharing time, forging bonds
This year’s reunion features a special opportunity for former work colleagues to catch up in a way previous reunions didn’t offer.
When participants gather at the March 2 CEO Luncheon, they will be joined by nearly 2,000 retired Saudi work colleagues they previously worked alongside.
“I have come to believe it is important that our expatriate retirees and Saudi retirees consider a forum for Saudi and expatriates to strengthen the relationship among them and build bridges of friendship,” says Baluchi. “The time shared at the CEO Luncheon can be the beginning of forging these bonds.
While reconnecting with each other, the expats attending the reunion have opportunities to explore the local community’s museums, shopping, and take part in several dining experiences. A gathering for the Aramco Brats gives those who spent their childhoods here their own opportunity to renew connections. Additionally, trips are going to Abha, Shaybah, Riyadh, Jiddah, and al-Ula. The 14-day reunion will wrap up on March 14.