On the morning of the 12th, the driver who was to drive me along the pipeline arrived. He was a pleasant Indian fellow and the car looked like a 1984 Chevrolet, one that had seen several years of Tapline service. We departed and after only a few minutes I discovered that the driver did not speak Arabic nor English so that promised it would be a quiet trip. I also did notice that he was not very much at ease in the busy traffic of Dammam.
We reached the main road to Kuwait and a few kilometers after passing Qatif Oasis,thetapline.jpg (38444 bytes) above ground stretches of Tapline on the left side of the road as well as the first overhead road signs pointing the way to the old dirt road along the pipeline.Image2.jpg (23069 bytes) 
After about 15 kilometers we passed Tufiah which is an electric boosterpump 
 station in the Aramco section of Tapline.
wariah.jpg (18320 bytes)

The next landmark was the turn -off to Nariyah where we stopped for fuel and since the temperature had been rising quite steadily, for a cool drink. The gas station where I used to stop for fuel so many years ago was still there and did not appear to have changed or improved a great deal. Inside the "Restaurant" I met a nice gentleman who invited me to share his lunch, which I politely declined. His name was Mr. Khan and he was thekhan.jpg (23066 bytes) manager of the place.  He wanted to know where I came from and what I was doing in the area. I told him  that back in the 80's I used to drive from Turaif to Dhahran and back and I used to fill up at this same station. He did tell me about the horrific traffic on the road during the Gulf crisis and the many accidents that happened.

We then departed on the way to Qaisumah. Not much change in the scenery but I was getting uneasy about my driver. He had a very heavy foot, the one on the accellerator, and he was driving consistently over 120 Km/h. Not a high speed by any standard but as soon as he drove over 100 Km/h. the air conditioning would quit. So I had to remind him to slow down a bit. All I got in the way of acknowledgement was a big grin, so when I found out that it would not make a bit of difference, I just let him do his own thing.

wariah2.jpg (50699 bytes)        wariah3 copy.jpg (43316 bytes) Aramco removed the Wariah turbine in 1984 and they did a very good job of cleaning up, much better than the removal crews who removed the Tapline APU turbines. Only the concrete foundations are left and not much else. The Microwave facilities have expanded  and are located where the generator building used to be.                                                        

We had progressed to about 25 Kms. beyond Wariah when I heard a familiar loud thud. About 30  seconds later another louder one and I told the driver to stop. I had heard this type of sound a few times in the old days and it usually meant that the sole of a tire was coming off.
 Sure enough, the left front tire had shed about half of it. So out came the jack. The driver did not have a clue where to place it so I pointed to the jack plate under the chassis. The driver came up with a cross type lug wrench, the one with a different size socket at each of the four ends.chevvy2.jpg (24649 bytes) These ends are too large to fit in the jacking socket so the search was on for the original jack or something that would be small and strong enough to operate the jack. The driver did not have a clue what I was on about. I emptied the trunk contents on the ground, massive amounts of dried and canned food, bed rolls and what have you. Finally in the bottom of the tire well on the left side I found the original lug wrench buried in all kinds of rubbish and we managed to change the tire.

My major concern was to get to Qaisumah without any further flat tires and to purchase a new tire. However Qaisumah is still as big (or small) as it was in the old days, the gloss having been taken by Hafar Al-Batin. The Qs  pumpstation industrial area is still complete, see the  pictures. The housing area is used by the military which prevented me from entering the station, however I did take some pictures from outside the fence.              

QSpumph.JPG (19829 bytes)  QSpumph2.JPG (102240 bytes)   qshosp.jpg (21814 bytes)   QSguesth.JPG (26488 bytes)   QShousing1.jpg (30932 bytes)   qshousing2.jpg (32792 bytes)   HafarPL.JPG (24366 bytes)

I did notice when we drove towards Hafar that just before the turn-off the old waterwell with the house and a few trees on the right side of the road where in the old days water tankers used to get their water, is still there ! 
 Hafar which I remember as a small mostly mud brick town, built around the old castle has really grown in all directions extending along the pipeline road and south of it in the direction of King Khalid Military City.  And it even boasts a proper Holiday Inn hotel ! We had problems trying to find the right tire but after a few tries we finally found one. We also had an "expert" look at the failing AC but instead he managed to do something so that the car would not start. Another hour later that starting problem was solved, so I decided to remove my destiny off the hands of the  Turkish ?? "mohendes " and depart without AC.

It was close to 5 pm. and we had not eaten anything of substance. Just north of the Tapline road crossing   was an impressive looking place. I took a look at the menu and decided that my best option was to drink a Pepsi. The staff was all Egyptian,  they were very pleasant and I think somewhat taken back to see a foreigner and hear him speak Arabic with a Dutch accent !. One of them spoke good English and I learned that since the Gulf war not many westerners came to Hafar. He nor any of the other people had ever heard the name Tapline. I put the same question to the people at the tire shop as well as the garage and only one of the few Saudi nationals at the tire shop knew about Tapline, as all the others were of different nationalities so the result is not surprising. So loaded with a new spare but with an empty stomach we continued our journey to Rafha.

Arrived in RAfha just before sunset and started to look for a hotel. The driver was going to stay in the small Al-Mohanna compound. I found a small decent looking hotel "Ali Baba"  just before the Tapline gate and discovered that its owner was none other that our ex Office Specialist Mohammad Qublan !   Qublan has always had a veryMKublan.JPG (46249 bytes) unconventional outlook on life and is a philosopher of sorts. In the old days we used to have long conversations and it was quite apparent that he was a very keen observer of the world not just around him, but of the world in general. Most interesting of all is that he draws some very interesting conclusions.  He came over to see me after evening prayers and we talked until late at night. He told me about the very good business he did before the Gulf war as some of the French officers were staying at his hotel.His staff is all Egyptian and they came up with a very enjoyable meal. The rooms were large and  clean. After a refreshing shower I went to bed and slept like a log. The next morning after breakfast Qublan came to show me around Rafha. I walked out the door and faced a large green area which reminded me of John Arnold whoRFtown1.JPG (35903 bytes) constructed the first (part of) a green golf course in Saudi Arabia !  The next picture is a view from the main gate looking towards the east, on the left is the small hill that faces the gate. The white cars are parked opposite Qublan's Ali Baba hotel, the PL road was straightened and is on the far right, yes lined with trees as far as the airport and the trees straight ahead are around the Traffic Police station. 

We drove into Rafha, which is in sharp contrast to what it used to be. The streets are wide and well paved. We soon met up with two ex employees, Matrouk Sayed, ex Community Maintenance Foreman  and Suleiman Saleh,      RFemp.JPG (20248 bytes)            ex RafhaDiesel Mechanic.   The timing of my trip was unfortunate as many of the ex employees are still living in Rafha but in July usually go away to visit their children elsewhere in the Kingdom or travel to Jordan or Syria for the summer. The town has grown tremendously and was quite impressed with the general appearance of it all.

Abdel Latif al-Ruwaili  arrived who is the General Foreman in the present organization, he has the keys to the station and was going to show me around. We drove first to the housing area, where only the CC Building is still standing and was used by the coalition forces during the Gulf campaign. In 1998 the dozers moved in and removed all houses, bunkhouses and most trees. Here are two pictures of the housing area both taken from the far end of the street, one taken in 1968, the other one taken in July 2001.   The difference is obvious and it brings back many memories of the people who lived there. The same is true of course of the rest of the stations.RFstreetb.JPG (21917 bytes)RFstreeta.JPG (21106 bytes)
RFGC73A.jpg (22384 bytes)Rafha boasted a green golfcourse built by John Arnold with help of the station residents and his sons whenever they came over. The other two pictures are of Rafha Main Street. The green one taken in 1968 taken from the corner of the C.C. Building, the other one taken in 2001 from the opposite direction.

The pumphouse now stands empty, all engines, cooling water pumps, generators, compressors, finfans and other equipment was removed only the switchgear is left behind. RFphse1.JPG (45309 bytes)  Now there are plenty of wild pigeons nesting inside the building and Qublan came back within minutes with two live RFqublan.JPG (18718 bytes) pigeons and one egg, for his   son,   so he said.   This picture shows Abdel Latif standing on the foundation rails of C generator.     The new AC plant that was moved from inside the pumphouse to outside in 1982 has been removed.  

   The horizontal booster pumps  are still there covered with pigeon droppings. 
 RFhbooster.JPG (46634 bytes)   The incoming line valves and vertical booster pumps etc. are all intact. 
 Note the trees and shrubs along the PL road.   The 600HP electric booster pumps look like they were installed a few days ago !

RFincl.JPG (19464 bytes)           RFelboosters.jpg (22963 bytes)             RFhosp.JPG (17278 bytes)             RFmaingate.jpg (35149 bytes)  

The hospital looks a bit deserted as of course it is !   

 We had spent a considerable time just looking around, now was the time to continue my trip to Badanah.   I said Goodbye to Qublan and Abdel Latif but before getting in the car, I walked a few hundred yards up the road and had a look towards Rafha Pumpstation.   I thought of a man who loved a green station. jarnold.jpg (51937 bytes)

RFpumpst.JPG (13752 bytes)






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