PRINT January 2013


Postcard for Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company (Tapline), 1960. Found material for Rayyane Tabet’s series “The Shortest Distance Between Two Points,” 2007–.

DURING THE FIRST DECADE of the oil age in Saudi Arabia—after the royal family granted the first concessions to American companies in the 1930s but before a wave of labor protests surged through the Eastern Province in the 1950s—petroleum was being exported through a short pipeline from the drilling fields of Dammam to the port city of Dhahran. It was barreled there, then carried by ship in a grand arc around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. In the aftermath of World War II, however, a group of engineers and oil executives, fearful of maritime closures by the region’s newly independent states, decided to replace that sweeping curve with a ruthlessly efficient straight line. This direct shot from desert to sea materialized in the form of a steel tube, just thirty inches in diameter, which ran for roughly 750 miles through what

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