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A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City – Part 2

27 January 2016 | comments (0) | Travel & Leisure | by

Last week we shared with readers some of the joys offered by a getaway in downtown Seattle. Much was said about eateries found in the vicinity of the city’s famous Pike Place Market. Seattle is noted for its fine restaurants, and it’s also noted for its many cultural offerings.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 2

If you’re a bookworm like I am, or interested in genealogy like I also am, I recommend you do your best to find time for a visit to the stunning Seattle Public Library’s Central Library location on any visit to the Emerald City. The library has been described as having “a unique, striking appearance, consisting of several discrete ‘floating platforms’ seemingly wrapped in a large steel net around glass skin.” Located at 1000 Fourth Ave. on the border between the city’s retail core and financial district, it opened in 2004 and was designed by celebrated Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas. In 2007, the Central Library was voted one America’s favorite structures by the American Institute of Architects. The 11-story building houses over 1 million volumes, including a vast genealogy collection located on the ninth floor consisting of “more than 40,000 items dealing primarily with records and families of North America, including those for from the original 13 colonies, the Old Northwest Territory and from states referred to as “Gateways to the West.” One could easily spend days on the library’s ninth floor delving deep into family history.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 2

Another cultural attraction of note just a few blocks away from the Central Library is the Seattle Art Museum, located at 1300 First Avenue. On the day of my visit, SAM was hosting a traveling exhibition from the National Gallery of Art, “Intimate Impressionism, featuring works by such renowned artists as Bonnard, Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Vuillard, among others. That amazing collection has now moved on, but more will follow in the future and a number of fascinating shows continue.

For more information on the Seattle Art Museum and a schedule of events, visit

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 2

Just up the hill from SAM sits Benaroya Hall, home to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. We left too early to take in their annual New Year’s Eve celebration and dance, featuring a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but in previous visits we’ve enjoyed magical interpretations of the works of Sibelius, Handel, Beethoven and others. The concert hall itself is one of the finest in America, and their schedule of on-going concert offerings is varied and long.

For more information on the Seattle Symphony, visit

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 2

Seattle enjoys a national reputation for its theater scene, with a variety of choices in venues, including the Seattle Repertory Theater, the Paramount Theater and the Fifth Avenue Theater. On our visit, we took in a locally-produced production of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music.” If anything, the live performance was more entertaining than the famous movie version starring Julie Andrews. Other shows coming to the Fifth Avenue later this year include “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “A Night with Janis Joplin” and “Paint Your Wagon”—as varied a trio of choices as you could ever hope to find.

For information on the Fifth Avenue Theater, visit

For information on the Seattle Repertory Theater, visit

We only had three days and nights to take in Seattle’s pleasures. It wasn’t nearly enough time, and we plan to go back again and again—for music, for food, for culture, for a wonderful time.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City – Part 1

20 January 2016 | comments (0) | Travel & Leisure | by

Tucked away in what Americans like to call “the upper left hand corner” of the United States is Seattle, a vibrant metropolis civic boosters like to call “the Emerald City.” The moniker owes its provenance not to the Emerald City of “Wizard of Oz” fame, but rather to the perennial, year-round greenery that covers much of the surrounding landscape. If your tastes lean towards emerald-green trees, sapphire-blue waters, snow-white mountains and a dose of gray-lined skies mixed in with more frequent outbursts of golden sunshine and azure skies than commonly reported, then Seattle is your place.

Between Christmas and New Years, writer and spouse spent three glorious days in Seattle, taking in the sights, feasting on the food and attending cultural events. Our only regret was we couldn’t stay longer.

For a major American city, Seattle’s downtown is surprisingly accessible. We had enough attractions within walking distance of our hotel that we resorted to taxi rides for only one event. For everything else, we rode what my father liked to refer to as “haunch’s horses”—our legs.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 1

Combing a dozen websites for a reasonably-priced place to stay, we stumbled upon the El Gaucho Inn, a marvelous 17-room boutique hotel on First Avenue in the Belltown neighborhood of downtown, a five minute walk north of the famous Pike Place Market. The Inn comprises the top-most floor of arguably the finest steak restaurant in town, the El Gaucho. The restaurant’s swanky interior is reminiscent of a classic New York restaurant where a titan of Wall Street or a star of Broadway might be found enjoying the finest filet mignon in three states. In a previous incarnation at another downtown location, the El Gaucho sported a mink-lined booth that customers fought over. No such extravagance can be found in the “new” El Gaucho, but fear not. The food and service and atmosphere make up for it, albeit at prices reflective of across-the-board quality.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 1

Happily, the price of our room was barely more than the price of one of the steak dinners—far more reasonable than anything we could find at a 4- or 5-star hotel elsewhere in town. That price included an afternoon wine-tasting running from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. A raised-hearth gas fireplace provided a cozy warmth to the lobby ambience.

For eats, we relied on the offerings of restaurants clustered in and around Pike Place Market. With dozens of attractive eateries to choose from, it was difficult deciding where to sup. We finally settled on four: Cutter’s Crabhouse, Café Campagne, the Athenian Inn and Kell’s Irish Pub.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 1

Cutter’s prides itself on serving the finest seafood available and offers a spectacular view of the Seattle waterfront, Elliott Bay and Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Seattle is world-famous for its seafood, and Cutter’s lives up to that reputation.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 1

Café Campagne boasts that it’s Seattle’s foremost classic French restaurant, and our experience eating there did nothing to disprove their claim. Located on an alley, away from vehicular traffic, Campagne would fit in nicely were it somehow to be transported to Paris’s Left Bank. Its food, wine and service were uniformly exceptional.

If you’ve seen the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” you know the Athenian Inn. It is where Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner are sitting at a counter having lunch discussing tiramisu, the Italian desert that Hanks mistakenly thinks is something quite different. There’s oodles of homey atmosphere to be had at the Athenian and lots more of Seattle’s famous seafood to be tasted.

A Gem of a Time in the Emerald City - Part 1

Finally, there’s Kells, as genuine an Irish pub as you’ll find anywhere outside the Emerald Isles. Warm and cozy and inviting, Kell’s offers traditional Irish fare such as a wide assortment of pasties (actually, aren’t pasties supposed to be a Cornish treat? No matter. Kell’s pasties are tasty anyway), Dublin coddle, shepherd’s pie, Irish soda and Wheaton bread and more.

Too many choices, too little time. That best sums up the Seattle restaurant scene.

(to be continued)

Helpful URLs:

El Gaucho Inn:

El Gaucho Restaurant/Seattle:

Cutter’s Crabhouse:

Café Campagne:

Athenian Inn:

Kell’s Irish Pub:

Aramco ExPats – 2015 in Review

6 January 2016 | comments (0) | Special Interest | by

2015 was truly a banner year for Aramco ExPats, and we’d like to share with our readers some of the highlights. After all, without you, we could not succeed.

8,000 and Growing

In 13 years, Aramco ExPats has grown its readership from a mere handful of curious annuitants to over 8,000 members from over 200 countries around the world, including, of all places, Antarctica! Every day, readers visit Aramco ExPats pages filled with information concerning events in KSA and in our online community of Aramco Expatriates, Annuitants, and Brats. If you haven’t already done so, why not Join our growing network of Aramco ExPats? It’s free!

Aramco ExPats - 2015 in Review

Reconnecting and Reminiscing in Dhahran

In March of this year, many hundreds of annuitants gathered together in Dhahran for the Third Aramco In-Kingdom Reunion. Ali Al-Baluchi, along with his talented team organized the nine-day reunion packed with outstanding events and excursions. Thank you Ali and Team!

Aramco ExPats - 2015 in Review

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Visits Washington, DC

In September, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz traveled to Washington, DC to meet with President Barack Obama. It was his first visit to the United States since 2012 and the first since he assumed the crown in January of this year following the death of his half brother, King Abdullah. As part of the ceremonies associated with the king’s visit, hundreds of annuitants gathered at the Capital Hilton on 15th Street NW for an action-packed weekend that included a formal reception on Saturday evening at the historic neoclassical Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue.

Aramco ExPats - 2015 in Review

Aramcons from the Past Share Their Stories of Life and Work in the Oil Patch

Our readers love stories about the history of Saudi Aramco as told by the individuals who helped shape it. And so, we try to sate their hunger with stories like the currently on-going series of tales by Ken Slavin which recount what life was like in KSA for an Aramcon back in the ’40s and ’50s. We will continue to feature such stories in the future and invite our readers to submit stories of their own that they would like to share with others.

Aramco ExPats Puts More Industry News in the Pipeline

Our readers are always hungry for more industry news, so that’s what we gave them in 2015. We post news about Saudi Aramco and the petroleum industry to our Pipeline section almost daily and additional information in the Industry News section of our weekly e-newsletter.

Forum Continues to Act As a Bridge

The Aramco ExPats Forum continues to be THE place to visit for people considering living and working with Saudi Aramco. There they can ask questions and get answers about what to expect from life in the Kingdom. In 2015, more visitors posted in the forum than ever before. We urge readers to consider sharing your experiences with others in the Forum.

Aramco ExPats - Forum

Eng. Mohammad Riaz Baig’s Retirement

6 January 2016 | comments (2) | Pakistan | by

Eng. Mohammad Riaz Baig's Retirement

Eng. Mohammad Riaz Baig (073629), A Saudi Aramco retiree after 33 years of service in KSA, now residing in Pakistan has been a member of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, since 1997 while he was still working with Saudi Aramco. ASHRAE being an international organization having over 55000 members spread all around the world, working for the advancement of art and science of Heating, Air conditioning and Refrigeration. During Mr Baig’s stint with the company, he was very active with Saudi Arabian ASHRAE chapter and had attended several company sponsored ASHRAE conferences in USA, Canada and Middle East. Upon his retirement, he continued with this knowledge sharing forum and joined ASHRAE NPC (Northern Pakistan Chapter). In recent local chapter elections, he was elected to “President Elect” position for yr 15-16.

Eng. Mohammad Riaz Baig's Retirement

Every year, ASHRAE’s Chapters from the ‘Region at Large, RAL’ come together at the Chapters Regional Conferences (CRC). RAL is made up of Chapters and Sections of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Nigeria, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Macedonia, Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, South Cyprus and Turkey.

Eng. Mohammad Riaz Baig's Retirement

With attendees coming from around the world, CRC provides great opportunities for Technical exchange on matters relating to ASHRAE with slogan “Shaping tomorrow built environment today”. Last year’s CRC was held in Spain where Mr Baig represented Pakistan as Chapter’s technology Chair while this year it was held in Istanbul from Oct 2-4 hosted by ASHRAE Turkish Chapter where Mr Baig was the Delegate from Pakistan. Mr Khalid A. Mulhim, a current Saudi Aramco employee from CSD Dhahran who is the Regional vice Chair of RAL, also attended. CRC also provided an opportunity for friends to meet and share good times memories. Next year, this conference will be held in Thailand.

The Second Ex-Aramcon Reunion in Toronto, Canada

6 January 2016 | comments (2) | Reunions | by

The Second Ex-Aramcon Reunion in Toronto, Canada

58 former Aramcons came together on Saturday, November 21, 2015, to attend the second reunion, at the Tandoori Flame Restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, to meet, reminisce and savour the friendships built along the years while in Saudi Arabia. The reunion was organized by Farouk and Yasmin Khory and Wilfred and Jasmine Carvalho. Aramcons from Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and one Aramcon, Kevin Meyers, drove all the way from Cleveland, Ohio, to enjoy the evening. Marina Burn, another Aramcon, who lived in Abqaiq from 1986 to 1991 was determined to meet up and spent three hours on public transportation to attend the event.

It was endearing to hear comments, “I didn’t know that so many other Aramcons were there in Toronto” and many others were happy to make new friendships. At this second reunion, there were 31 new Aramcons, who had not attended the reunion last year. The food was a great big spread comprising 150 items to satisfy any palette.

Two games with puzzles were organized. One was a word find, and the other was word jumble. All the words, were names of places in and around Dhahran, and Saudi Arabia. It was interesting to see everyone engrossed in trying to solve the puzzles, and at the same time it allowed everyone to walk through memory lane as they were filled with common names that only Aramcons would recognize.

Here is a list of all the Aramcons who attended: Bhuvana and Ananth, (who are currently with Aramco, but were visiting Toronto) and their son, Gautam Ananthnarayanan; Farhat and Anwar Baig; Aida Bowhay; Marina Burn; Recto Cachero; Jasmine and Wilfred Carvalho, and their son, Marc; Bing and Mario Chan; Narciso Escarian; Mahin and Mahmood Esfahani; Tanaz and Alim Jivraj, and their five month old son, Kamran; Khalida and Masroor Khan; Yasmin and Farouk Khory; Tazeen and Asim Kidwai; Wing Kwan, and his daughter, Lana; Marzie and Farzad Mazeheripour; Kevin Meyers; Heena Mustafa; Bibi and Mohamed Patel, and their grandson, Taleb; Prasana and John Paulous; Parin and Alnoor Ratansi; Dr. Syed Sayeed, Shomaila, and their children, Syed Shahzer, Aisha Shanzay, and Nabiha Ahmed; Novera and Pirzada Siddique, and their children Aminah, Fatimah, and Khadijah; Mahjabeen and Mohammed Suboor; Ghonee and Donald Thew; Joy Villaruel; Nuzhat and Nauman Waheed; Karan Yadav and his daughter, Rutvi; Nahid and Zia Ziauddin.

All participants wished to meet again at a banquet hall or a picnic, next year. The organizers expressed their interest in continuing to organize and to increase the participants. All attendees were encouraged to bring all their Aramco friends and children who grew up in Aramco to attend to the next event. The evening ended with photographs and of course the knowledge that we all are members of the large Aramco family.

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