Middle East: Obliging Goliath

Even to hardened Bedouin shepherds, the waterless wastes of Saudi Arabia's Rub' al Khali (literally, "empty quarter") seemed so desolate that "not even Allah had been there." But under these simmering sands American geologists discovered a sea of oil, and the company that tapped it—the Arabian American Oil Co.—has become one of the world's two largest single oil producers. (The other: Kuwait Oil Co., jointly owned by Gulf and British Petroleum.)

Since bringing in its first well in 1938, Aramco has shipped 5.7 billion bbl. of oil—enough to supply the entire world's demand for seven months. Its known reserves are worth...

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