The largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco, is located within the urban agglomerate. King Abdul Aziz Port is the second busiest commercial port in the country, after only Jeddah. Combined with the nearby cities of Dhahran, Qatif, and Khobar, Al-Dammam is the urban population is about two million, while about 600 thousand live in Al-Dammam proper.
The area around King Abdul Aziz Port and Al-Dammam was first settled by the Al Hassan clan of the Al Dawasir tribe (Arabic) and several Hewila families in the first decades of the 20th Century. Led by Sheikh Ahmed ibn Adbullah ibn Hassan Al Dowsary, King Abdulaziz offered them a choice of land to settle, and they chose Al-Dammam for its proximity to Bahrain Island.
Unfortunately, they were not able to settle there immediately, as the British rulers of the time discouraged any move at all. The nomadic tribe decided to settle in Al-Dammam permanently and, after many years, they settled at nearby Al Khobar about eight kilometers to the south.
When huge oil reserves were discovered in the area in 1938, the previously small coastal village of Al-Dammam underwent massive change. It became a boomtown and important seaport, a center for natural gas and petroleum, and eastern Saudi Arabia’s commercial heart. Most of Al-Dammam was built after the 1940s, so it is a modern city with many suburbs.
By the early 1980s, Al-Dammam and Al Khobar were so close together that it took minutes to go from one city to the other. As population growth and economic expansion took place all over Saudi Arabia, the towns of Al Khobar, Dharan, and Al-Dammam merged into one, creating the Dammam Metropolitan Area.