Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia

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Eastern Province

المنطقة الشرقية
al-Mintaqah ash-Sharqiyyah
Location of Eastern Province
CountrySaudi Arabia
 • GovernorPrince Saud bin Nayef
 • Deputy GovernorPrince Ahmed bin Fahd
 • Total672,522 km2 (259,662 sq mi)
Area rank1
 • Total4,900,325
 • Rank3
 • Density7.3/km2 (19/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+3 (Arabian Standard Time)
Area code(s)013
ISO 3166 codeSA-04

The Eastern Province (Arabic: الشرقيةash-Sharqiyyah) is the easternmost of the 13 provinces of Saudi Arabia. It is the largest province of Saudi Arabia by area and the third most populous with a population of 4,900,325 as of 2017, after the Riyadh Province and the Makkah Province[1]. 3,140,362 were Saudi citizens and 1,759,963 were foreign nationals [2] The province accounts for 10.05% of the entire population of Saudi Arabia[1] and is named for its geographical location relative to the rest of the kingdom.

More than a third of the population is concentrated in the Dammam metropolitan area. With an estimated population of 1.2 million as of 2019,[3] Dammam, the capital of the province, is the sixth most populous city in the kingdom. The incumbent governor of the province is Prince Saud bin Nayef Al Saud. Other populous cities in the province include Hofuf, Mubarraz, Hafr al-Batin, Jubail and Khobar[4]. The region is extremely popular among tourists for its beaches on the Persian Gulf and proximity to the other countries of the eastern Arab world, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with the latter being linked to the province via the 25 km (15 mi) long King Fahd Causeway. The region also shares a border with Oman. The province is bordered to the west, from north to south, by the provinces of the Northern Borders, Ha'il, Qassim, Riyadh and Najran.

The Eastern Province encompasses the entire east coast of Saudi Arabia and acts as a major platform for most of the kingdom's oil production and exports. Oil was first found in the country in the Eastern Province, at the Prosperity Well site (formerly known as Dammam No.7). The Ghawar oil field, located in the Ahsa Governorate, measuring 8400 (3240 sq.mi.) is the largest oil field in the world, and accounts for roughly a third of the kingdom's oil production. The Safaniya oil field, located off the coast of the province, is the largest offshore oil field in the world. The Jubail Industrial City, part of the city of Jubail, the fifth most populous in the province, is the largest industrial city in the world.[5]

The area was largely uninhabited until the Iron Age, when a few people migrated over from the Achaemenid and Macedonian empires. For most of the early medieval period, the region was under Persian and Sasanian rule until the advent of Islam under Muhammad, and subsequently, the Islamic empires during the Islamic Golden Age. After a brief period of British rule during the early modern period, the Unification of Saudi Arabia led to the consolidation of the region into the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, which in 1932, was united into the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Approximately two-thirds of the province is desert, in the form of the Rub' al Khali, Dahna and Nafud deserts, with the Rub' al-Khali alone comprising more than half of the area of the province. Areas such as Hafr al-Batin and the Ahsa Oasis have become important sites for desert farming due to the advancements made during the Green Revolution in farming and irrigation techniques.

The entire eastern coast of the kingdom lies in the Eastern Province. The region borders, from north to south, the countries of Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman.



The Saudis of Najd gained control of the area after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The inhabited areas had been known as "Al-Ahsa" (Arabic: الأحساء‎) under Ottoman rule, and the entire region of Eastern Arabia was mostly known as "Bahrân" (Arabic: ا لبحر ن‎) from pre-Islamic times until 1521.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.

According to a report released by the Central Department of Statistics and Information, the Eastern Province had a population of 4,900,325 as of December 2017[1], of which 1.2 million were foreigners.[7] The Eastern Province is the third most populous province in Saudi Arabia, after Makkah and Riyadh. With a population of 903,000, Dammam is the most populous city in the province and the sixth most populous city in the country. The report also found that 23% of people who died or were injured in road accidents in the Kingdom were from the Eastern Province, making it the second deadliest province in the country (Riyadh accounted for 29%, while Makkah was tied at 23%).[7]


The government does not conduct census on religion in Saudi Arabia. Sunni Islam of the Hanbali school is the predominant religion overall in the country. Shia Muslims compose a high proportion in some areas of the Eastern Province, primarily in Qatif and Al Ahsa. [8]


The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. The three main regional variants spoken by Saudis are Hejazi Arabic,[9] Najdi Arabic,[10] and Gulf Arabic.[11] There are approximately 2 million Gulf Arabic speakers in Saudi Arabia, and the dialect is only spoken in the Eastern Province.[12] The remaining Arabic speakers in the province speak one of the other two dialects, more commonly the Najdi dialect.[12][13] Saudi Sign Language is the principal language of the deaf community. The large expatriate communities also speak their own languages, the most numerous of which are Indian languages, Filipino/Tagalog, Egyptian Arabic, Indonesian, Rohingya, and Urdu.[14][15]



Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil producing company of Saudi Arabia, is based in Dhahran, which is located in the Eastern Province, and most decisions on oil policy and production that affect the global economy are made there. The kingdom's main oil and gas fields are mostly located in the Eastern Province, onshore and offshore. Notable among these are the Ghawar Field and the largest crude increment in the world. Petroleum from the fields is shipped to dozens of countries from the oil port of Ras Tanura and is also used as feedstock in numerous industrial plants in Jubail.

Saudi Arabia's second major product, dates, also forms a large part of Eastern Province's economy. Every year thousands of tonnes of dates are harvested from the date palms in the giant oases of Al-Ahsa.

The same as other cities in the Kingdom the area has faced reasonable growth over the past two years; however, it has always maintained a more consistent real estate progress due to the smaller number of major projects that can affect its real estate landscape and due the long term outlook of many firms located within it. A D Williams indicated in the Saudi Real Estate Companion that despite being home to some of the largest conglomerates in the region, namely Aramco and Sabic, the Eastern Province did fall behind the rest of the country when it came to non-oil related services.



Dammam's King Fahd International Airport, the largest airport in the world in terms of land area. The passenger terminal is about 20 km to the northwest of the city and is connected by a 6-lane highway. The airport is the primary air hub of the Eastern Province. Dammam is well connected by air with other cities in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

Other international airports in the province are Al-Ahsa International Airport and Al Qaisumah/Hafr Al Batin Airport.


The King Abdul Aziz Sea Port, located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is the second largest and second busiest port in Saudi Arabia. It is also the largest port in the Persian Gulf. It was founded in the late 1940s. It has large equipment that allows it to receive various types of vessels. The most important equipments are 56 multi-purpose hoist, 8 container cranes, and 524 tanker containers. There are a number of berths for ships and fishing, as well as ship repair yard.


The major cities of the Eastern Province cities such as Abqaiq, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, Jubail, Khafji, Khobar, Ras Tanura, Sihat and Qatif (Gulf Road (Saudi Arabia)) are well connected by highways. Dammam is connected to the Saudi capital, Riyadh and Jeddah on the west coast by Highway 40. The Eastern Province is also linked to Bahrain by the 28 km long King Fahd Causeway, and to other Middle-Eastern countries such as Kuwait (Abu Hadriyah Highway), Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Inter-city bus services are operated in the province by the Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO). Bus services also connect Dammam and other cities in Saudi Arabia, and across the Middle East.

Administrative divisions

The Eastern Province is one of the 13 regions of Saudi Arabia[16] (Arabic: مناطق إدارية‎; manatiq idāriyya, sing. منطقة إدارية; mintaqah idariyya). The region is further subdivided into 11 governorates (Arabic: محافظات‎; muhafazat, sing. محافظة; muhafazah). The governorates are further sudivided into sub-governorates (Arabic: مراكز‎; marakiz, sing. مركز; markaz).

The Eastern Province's capital city of Dammam has special status. Like the other 12 regional capitals, Dammam is not included within any governorate but is instead governed by a "municipality" (Arabic: أمانة‎; amanah) headed by a mayor (Arabic: أمين‎; amin). The Al-Ahsa Governorate, which includes the traditional oasis of Al-Hasa and the Rub' al Khali desert, is the largest governorate in Saudi Arabia in terms of area.

List of governorates

List of sub-governorates

  • Markaz al Musannah
  • Markaz al 'Udayd

Major cities

  • Dammam: Capital of Eastern Province, the main seaport and the fifth largest city of Saudi Arabia (after Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and Medina).
  • Khobar: Major city in Eastern Province and center for commerce.
  • Dhahran: Oil industry center, site of Saudi Aramco headquarters. Its home to a major base of Royal Saudi Air Force and the most prestigious Saudi university, KFUPM.
  • Al-Hasa: Largest oasis in the world. Al-Hasa is sometimes considered by the people of the province to be a province by itself, since it has its own annual budget and its own local government, unlike the other areas in the province. The local government is formally known as the Al-Ahsa Governorate, a division of the Government of the Eastern Province. In addition, Al-Hasa has a mayor who has a power of a governor, although not "officially" considered as a governor because the province's governor still can control the operation of Al-Hasa Governorate and its mayor's office. Nonetheless, the Eastern Province's governor is still considered the head of the province government in any local occasion that occurs in Al-Hasa.
  • Qatif: Large oasis on the coast of the Persian Gulf
  • Jubail: Largest industrial city in the Middle East.
  • Abqaiq: Home for major and largest oil and gas processing plants
  • Ras Tanura: Major petroleum refining center, home for the largest oil refinery in the world, and many offshore oil platforms. Also main oil exporting seaport
  • Udhailiyah: Major oil producing and processing plants
  • Shayba in the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter), close to the border with the United Arab Emirates
  • Khafji: Main industrial city, very close to the border with Kuwait. Occupied by the Iraqi forces during the Gulf War. Saudi Forces aided by United States Marines victoriously engaged in the Battle of Khafji during Operation Desert Storm to free it from the Iraqis.
  • Hafar Al-Batin: The largest city in the North-East of Saudi Arabia, it is 90 km near Kuwait and it has more than 35 villages. King Khalid Military City is 60 km South to it.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Population Characteristics surveys" (PDF). General Authority for Statistics. 2017.
  2. ^ "Riyadh most populous Saudi city, Makkah most populous province". Arab News. 2012-02-25. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  3. ^ "Ad-Dammam, Saudi Arabia Population 1950-2020". Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  4. ^ Retrieved 2020-04-02. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "The World's Largest Industrial Areas". WorldAtlas. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  6. ^ Saudi Arabia: Regions and Cities
  7. ^ a b "Riyadh most populous Saudi city, Makkah most populous province". Arab News. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  8. ^ "الشيعة في السعودية: من التهميش إلى الاحتواء".
  9. ^ Arabic, Hijazi Spoken. Ethnologue
  10. ^ Arabic, Najdi Spoken. Ethnologue
  11. ^ Arabic, Gulf Spoken. Ethnologue
  12. ^ a b "International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 1". William Frawley. 2003. p. 38.
  13. ^ Languages of Saudi Arabia Ethnologue
  14. ^ "Migrant Communities in Saudi Arabia", Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch, 2004[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Saudi Arabia. Ethnologue
  16. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Administrative divisions".

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