(MENAFN - Arab News) .On Tuesday (May 8), I saw a short press release from the Swedish Embassy stating that His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden awarded a young Saudi lady the insignia of Member First Class of the Royal Order of the Polar Star. She is Lubna Suliman Al-Olayan.
After reading the press release, I remembered her father Suliman Al-Olayan, who 23 years ago received the same insignia. Suliman was one of the early hard working Saudi pioneers whose contributions to Saudi development made him a well known figure in the Kingdom and became a Wall Street tycoon.
He was the contractor for the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, a project in the 1950s considered a world wonder. With his project, he introduced many other things like welfare of the workers and their insurance. His daughter Lubna followed his footsteps and she even enhanced the relations between Saudi Arabia and other countries. Now, she is the CEO of the Olayan Financing Company, a multibillion-dollar enterprise.
When I started reading about this pioneer I came across many Saudis who contributed a lot to this country. And there is a need to give them credit for what they have done. During my reading about the many names of Saudi pioneers, I found a man I had never heard of before, but I was amazed by his track record of the jobs and positions he held and his education.
His name is Dr. Tariq Alshawaf. This pioneer was one of the first Saudi engineers to graduate from the US. He graduated in 1955 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts. And what I noticed about this engineer is that he was a man of many hats. He was awarded honorary doctorate from his old school and he became involved in many mega projects in Saudi Arabia, such as building seaports, training new engineers and building new water dams. He became an expert in the field of water and agriculture. And finally, this engineer turned into a historian because of the rich experiences he had.
Saudi pioneers deserve to be remembered. I have written an article in Arab News on May 11, 2010 titled "Saudi Aramco at 77, a street with no name." I talked mainly about the American pioneers who came to Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s and their achievements. Some of them entered the hall of fame and some of them simply weren't known. But, this doesn't take away the achievements of the unknown pioneers either Americans or other nationalities. And during the course of building the most sophisticated infrastructure in the most hostile environment like the heat, humidity and the lack of basic needs, the pioneers had an iron will.
During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, there were many Saudi young men who worked for Aramco. Some of them had only 6th grade. But they had visions and dreams, which made them ahead of their time.
The young Saudi men who worked with Aramco or were exposed to the Aramco way of doing business saw many massive state of the art technologies in the middle of the desert. The saw refineries, airports, planes, pipeline, cars, trains and oil rigs. The Saudis worked side by side with top American engineers and geologists. Many of them contributed to the development of Saudi Arabia during their years with Aramco, like the human GPS Khamis bin Rumaithan.
Many of the young Saudis learned very fast and they were patients during the time they were learning new language and new technology. Those Saudi pioneers worked day and night. They worked under the blazing sun in the summer and faced the desert's cold winter. Many of these Saudi pioneers were successful in their careers and social life, but some of them were looking at the stars above and beyond the desert horizon. And when you are in the desert, you will dream even when you are fully awake. In the desert you can be a geologist, a poet, a warrior, a tough guy, a soft guy and an oil rig supervisor"all in one day. And this is what the Saudi pioneers went through in the past.
There are many names and there is no way I could cover all the names in one article. As a matter of fact, I don't know many of the Saudi pioneers. And this is why I am writing about them, because we don't want to forget them. We saw Ali Alnoumi advancing from a humble job in Aramco to become the oil minister of the largest oil producer in the world. And before that step, he was Saudi Aramco CEO. The same accomplishment goes to H.E. Abdullah Juma'ah, former Saudi Aramco CEO. There are other pioneers who worked with Aramco and they became world-renowned achievers. They took upon their shoulders the supervision of Saudi mega projects at a time when resources, transportation and skilled labor weren't available.
We saw a lot of Saudi families who introduced many new things in the Kingdom. Beginning in the 1940s and on, those Saudi pioneers joined hands with the government and the private sector and built an oil refinery in Ras Tanurah, the longest oil pipelines ( TAPLINE), built a 700 km rail road track from Dammam Port to Riyadh, with stations in Abqaiq, Hofouf, Haradh, Todhyah and Al-Kharj. Saudi Arabia then built huge seaports, such as King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam and Jeddah Islamic Port and many other mega projects.
The Saudi pioneers learned a lot and then taught the younger generation the meaning of hard work and explained to the young men the importance of work ethics. The beautiful thing about the Saudi pioneers' mega achievements was that they were good listeners, fast learners and ambitious. It is important for the Saudi young generation to read about and learn from the Saudi pioneers' mega accomplishments.