King Fahad Industrial Port in Yanbu lies on the shores of the Red Sea in central western Saudi Arabia about 300 kilometers north-northwest of Jeddah Islamic Port. The second busiest port on Saudi Arabia’s western coast, King Fahad Industrial Port in Yanbu is a major port for shipments of oil, and Yanbu is the base for three oil refineries, several petrochemical plants, and a plastics factory. Three important pipelines for oil begin in the oilfields in the east and end at the Red Sea in the King Fahad Industrial Port in Yanbu.
The King Fahad Industrial Port in Yanbu has a natural harbor that is protected by large coral reefs on both sides. The City of Yanbu also has a domestic airport and a Royal Saudi Navy base. In 2004, the population of Yanbu was over 188 thousand. Many of the residents are Asian expatriates, but Yanbu is home to many people from Europe and other countries in the Middle East as well.
Some 2500 years ago, Yanbu was at the crossroads for trade routes moving spices and incense between Yemen, Egypt, and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea.
During World War I, Arabian and British forces used Yanbu as a supply and operations base for fighting the Ottoman Empire.
Until 1975, Yanbu was a small port town. In that year, the government of Saudi Arabia named it as one of two new national industrial centers (the other was Al Jubail on the eastern Persian Gulf coast).
The city of Yanbu is made up of three villages: Yanbu city, Yanbu Al-Nakhel, and Yanbu Al-Sina’iya. Yanbu city is often called Al-Balad, and it is home to most of the people and retail businesses. Yanbu Al-Nakhel is the ancient neighborhood and home to mostly farms. Yanbu Al-Sina’iya (meaning “the industrial Yanbu”) is the industrial city and home to the refineries and petrochemical plants. Yanbu Al-Sina’iya was founded in about 1975, and it is distinguished by the modern architecture of its housing and its rapid growth.
Yanbu is a stop on a new highway that links Jeddah to northern Saudi Arabia and Syria. The local economy once depended on pilgrims traveling to Medina and the export of locally-grown agricultural products, particularly dates. Today, the King Fahad Industrial Port in Yanbu is enlarging the harbor and improving its facilities so that it can divert some of the ocean-going traffic to Jeddah Islamic Port and ease the congestion there.