Three DC “Must See’s”
Last week readers were offered advice on places to see and things to do on a visit to Washington, DC. Nothing was said, however, about the American capital’s three most famous sites: the Capitol Building, where Congress meets, the White House, where the President lives and the Washington Monument, where memories of the nation’s first president, George Washington, live on. Today we fill in those three most important missing pieces.
One of the best-known and architecturally-impressive buildings in the world, the neoclassical United States Capitol in Washington, DC has been home to the House of Representatives and Senate for over two centuries. In that time it has been built, set on fire, rebuilt, restored and expanded.
George Washington laid the cornerstone in September 1793 to great ceremony and fanfare. The houses of Congress first convened in what is today the Senate (north) wing in 1800. Construction proceeded slowly in the following years, and in 1814 invading British troops set fire to the Capitol, as well as to the White House and other major government buildings. Construction was finally completed in 1826.
In 1850, future President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, a U.S. Senator at the time, introduced a bill authorizing the funding of a major expansion of the Capitol, including. construction of the cast-iron dome that dominates the building today. Work on the expansion continued through the Civil War years and was completed in 1868.
The architecture and decoration of the Capital are derived from classic themes dating to ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, and to Rome, the source of myriad streams of history and culture that still influence us today.
U.S. Capitol Building Information
The U.S. Capitol has been called the “Nation’s Stage,” and with good reason. Plan ahead on your next visit to Washington and see for yourself why.
Admission to the Capitol is free. Passes are required if you want to take a tour. You will need to reserve your tour in advance either through the Advance Reservation System or through the office of one of your Senators or your Representative.
Capitol Tour Booking Information
The White House
George Washington selected the site for the White House in 1791, and the cornerstone was laid a year later. Washington insisted on a design that would impress foreign visitors with its magnificence. President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, became the first presidential occupants in 1800, although the house remained unfinished at the time. Every American president since Adams has lived in the White House for at least part of his administration.
During the War of 1812, British troops ransacked and set fire to the White House, but not before Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, saved a famous full-length portrait of George Washington while leaving the first couple’s personal belongings behind. By 1817, the White House was restored, and President James Monroe moved in.
Subsequent significant additions were made to the White House during the administrations of presidents Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. It was Taft who had constructed the famous Oval Office. Subsequent major renovations were undertaken during the administrations of Harry Truman and John Kennedy.
If you can’t make it to DC anytime soon and can’t wait to visit the White House, you can take a virtual tour made possible by 360 Street View cameras that capture the rooms you would otherwise visit on a walking tour.
White House Virtual Tour
To take a walking tour in person, you must submit a tour request through your Member of Congress. Self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. Requests must be made no less than 21 days in advance and up to six months in advance. Space is limited, so it is suggested that you schedule your tour as far in advance as possible.
White House Information
The 555-foot white marble obelisk known as the Washington Monument is universally recognized around the world. Built the honor America’s first president, the Washington Monument provides an unparalleled bird’s eye view of the nation’s capital.
A limited supply of free, same day tickets are available on a first come, first served basis at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street adjacent to the Monument.
You can also purchase advance tickets. A nonrefundable service fee applies. You can make advance reservations either by phone (877-444-6777) or online.
Washington Monument Tour
Last Thursday, tragedy struck pilgrims on their way to visit the holy city of Mecca as more than 700 people died in a stampede on a walkway leading to the Jakarta pillars where the symbolic stoning of the devil is carried out by worshipers taking part in the Hajj. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those lost. While it is unclear whether any of those killed were members of the Saudi Aramco family, they were all members of the larger family that is humankind, as all of us are as well. We pray that God will welcome them and that they may find peace in their next life.
The recent gathering of Aramco annuitants in Washington, DC in celebration of visit of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman reminded us of what an enjoyable experience a visit to the nation’s capital can be. There is so much to see and do, the biggest problem you will face as a visitor will be choosing what to do and what to leave out. In addition to countless museums and historical sites to visit, there are events of interest to match nearly anyone’s taste going on year round.
In the days preceding the King’s visit, an interest in genealogy took me to the National Archives and the Library of Congress, where the staff could not possibly have been more helpful and friendly pointing me in the right direction in my search for information about my forebears. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile, the LOC has the largest collection of books in the world. It’s said that if you can’t find the volume you’re looking for there, it likely doesn’t exist. The building itself is a national treasure, and guided tours are available. On display are such items as an original Gutenberg Bible, dating from the 1450s and the first major work printed using movable type.
For more information on the Library of Congress, visit:
Library of Congress
For more information on the National Archives in Washington, DC, visit:
(Note: The National Archives operates Regional centers around the country; depending on what you’re interested in, the materials you seek might be held in an archive in the related region.)
If you’re not a bookworm and want to explore the great outdoors, the DC area offers a variety of choices. Two of the most popular are the National Mall and Memorial Parks and the Arlington National Cemetery.
Major features found in the National Mall include the Washington Monument, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the original Smithsonian Castle, the Air and Space Museum, the American Indian Museum and much more. Among the many fascinating aircraft on display in the Air and Space Museum are the original Wright Flyer, the plane the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, ushering in the Age of Flight, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” flown by Charles Lindberg on the first trans-Atlantic non-stop flight, and an original Otto Lilienthal glider, the first mass-production aircraft.
Arguably the most famous item in the Natural History Museum’s vast collection is the fabled 45.52 carat Hope Diamond—the world’s largest deep blue diamond. Legend holds that its previous owner, the noted New York jeweler Harry Winston, mailed the diamond to the Smithsonian via registered mail using the U.S. Postal Service.
Three of the main attractions of the Memorial Park are the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
For information on the National Mall and Memorial Parks and the 22 other parks operated by the National Park Service in the DC area, visit:
National Park Service
Developed on land originally donated by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Arlington National Cemetery has a rich history as the final resting place for many of America’s most famous soldiers and statesmen. The changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a moving experience not to be missed. Guided tours are available. If you are there to visit a specific grave, a free shuttle service is offered from the main visitors center.
For information on Arlington National Cemetery, visit:
Arlington National Cemetery
In subsequent articles on visiting Washington, DC, we will be discussing visiting the White House and the National Capitol, as well as reviewing special events scheduled for the upcoming fall and winter months.
The strengthening of the strategic partnership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States was the central theme of a visit last week by Keeper of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ibn ’Abd Al-’Aziz Al Sa’ud to Washington, DC, where he and his top advisers met with President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other government leaders. Both the Saudi and the American sides declared afterward that the meetings were successful, expressing optimism that the two countries’ long relationship would continue to grow and prosper, with new bi-lateral initiatives planned in the fields of health, education and investment.
Coinciding with King Salman’s trip, hundreds of former Aramcons traveled to the nation’s capital to participate in ceremonies marking his visit. Many of them stayed at the Capital Hilton, a historical landmark on 16th Street NW straight down the street from the White House, which could easily be seen from in front of the hotel.
On Saturday, Aramco sponsored a reception and dinner for 500 guests at the neoclassical Andrew M. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue, directly across the street from the National Museum of History. The gala event began with a reception in the ornate Green rooms on the main floor followed by a presentation on stage in the resplendent Great Hall, where two sets of speakers answered questions from moderators. The evening concluded with a grand buffet featuring a splendid variety of Arabian foods. The theme of the evening was “Nation to Nation, People to People: The Human Connection.”
The first panel, which looked at the past and the growth of the valuable relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States consisted of two former Aramco presidents and CEOs: Frank Jungers, and Abdallah S. Jum’ah,. Today Jum’ah serves as co-chair of the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council. Together, Jungers and Jum’ah shared informative and colorful stories about their experiences working for Aramco in its earlier days. The second panel, which looked at the future of Saudi-U.S. cooperation, consisted of HE Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Health and Chairman of the Board of Saudi Aramco, and HE Adel Al-Jubeir Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Panel members were introduced by Mohammed Qahtani, recent winner of the World Championship of Public Speaking at the Annual Toastmasters International convention. For his winning speech, Qahtani spoke of “The Power of Words.” The power of words was in evidence throughout the evening in the persons of the four guest speakers.
The universal conclusion of all parties present that historic night was that the fellowship and love felt globally by Aramcons past and present are unique, without equal anywhere in the world. Tens of thousands of men and women from one hundred or more countries are brothers and sisters for life thanks to their years spent living and working in Saudi Arabia as part of the Aramco family. The warm comradeship they feel for one another was fully in evidence at the Mellon Auditorium that night—a night everyone fortunate to be present will carry with them as a treasured memory.
Special guests in addition to the panel members included HE Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of Finance and HE Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
Other attendees included Ali Baluchi, Stan and Peggy McGinley; Art Clark from ASC, H. Delano Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chairman of the Middle East Council of American Chambers of Commerce, the grandson of William A. Eddy, the man who served as interpreter for the pivotal February 1945 meeting between King Ibn Saud and FDR and many Aramcons and Brats. A large thank you is extended to Art Clark, Kathy and Tom Owens, and others who organized this grand tribute to King Salman’s visit to the United States.
As one, Aramco annuitants attending the ceremonies in Washington look forward to the next annual meeting of former Aramcons scheduled to be held next year in Monterrey, California. In the words of Al Jubeir, “Ultimately, it’s not only about oil and trade and investment and the common interests that we have, it’s also about the people-to-people link that we have that very few people appreciate who are outside this relationship.”
One of many colorful offsprings of the Aramcon expat’s lifestyle is a group known as the 1990′s Club. Back in the early ’80s, a bunch of expats were sitting around in Dhahran late one night after another friendly softball game talking about this and that when somebody came up with the splendid idea of having everyone anti-up dollars into a kitty based on a promise to gather together in Las Vegas in 1990. The money was to make sure that people kept their promise to attend.
In the meantime, a trio of teams emerged from that initial conclave, including the Finance Basketball team, the Mossy Rocks softball team and the Sand Roses softball team.
In 1990, as promised, they all met in Las Vegas. They have continued to meet ever since in assorted venues. This week they are in Washington DC.
We wish to thank two of the original 1990-ers, Jane and Jary Archer, for this news item.