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Bert Seal ARAMCO Photographic Collection

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS314

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 94 photographs taken in Saudi Arabia between the years of 1955 and 1960. The photos have been left in their original order as they were received from Bert Seal, ARAMCO Public Relations Department Photographer. The prints were made by Seal from copy negatives from 8x10 prints he brought back from Saudi Arabia. The Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) was organized to carry out oil operations in Saudi Arabia under a concession agreement with that country's government.

Bert Seal, who took most of the photographs in the collection, was one of four photographers in the Public Relations Department. The other three photographers included another American, a Palestinian and a Saudi. The Exploration and Engineering Departments had their own photo departments. The Public Relations photographer captured all phases of the petroleum industry including exploration and drilling in addition to covering life in Saudi Arabia and local color. The photographs were taken for two different weekly papers, two monthly magazines, the annual report, news releases and advertisements in Middle East papers. About half of the photographs in the collection were taken when Bert Seal was placed on loan to King Saud to photograph him and Crown Prince Faisal, as well as other heads of state when they came on state visits.

The visiting dignitaries included: Egyptian Vice President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his close associate, Anwar Sadat, Syrian President Shukri al Kuwatli, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and King Faisal II of Iraq. Nasser's visit to Saudi Arabia in September of 1956 occurred two months after he had nationalized the Suez canal, a bold move that made him wildly popular throughout the Arab world. He was met in Riyadh by huge cheering crowds. The meeting between Nasser and Saud was a turning point in their relations, as Nasser was negotiating with Saud the possibility of oil embargoes against the West and providing support for Egypt. Kuwatli and Sadat were present during this visit. Nehru visited Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter. The meeting between Saud and King Faisal of Iraq was the first meeting of the Saud and Hashemite families in many years. Eleven photographs were taken when Seal was visiting Bedouin camps in the desert. The remainder of the photographs serve as a record of ARAMCO's exploration and drilling operations, including photos of structures, vehicles, procedures and machinery.

ABBREVIATIONS: ARAMCO - Arabian American Oil Company b/w - black and white (photograph)


  • 1955 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

Bert Seal was 24 years old and attending photography school in New York City when he was hired by ARAMCO in 1955. He worked for the company's Public Relations Department in Saudi Arabia for five years. He had many Saudi friends and was, on occasion, invited to a Bedouin camp to spend the weekend with them in the desert. He reported that he was always impressed by Arab hospitality whether on the desert or in the King's palace. While photographing a state banquet he was always invited to sit down and join in the meal. In 1960, Seal returned to the United States and moved to San Diego, California where he worked for the San Diego County Office of Education as an Audio Visual photographer for twenty-nine years until he retired. He currently resides in San Diego and continues to engage in photography. Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) was prime minister of Egypt from 1954 to 1956 and then president from 1956 to 1970. Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) was an Egyptian army officer and politician who was president of Egypt from 1970 to 1981. Sukri al Kuwatli (1891-1967) became Syria's first president in 1943. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was the first prime minister of independent India from 1947 to 1964. Haile Selassie (1892-1975) was emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. King Faisal II (1935-1958) was the last king of Iraq, and he reigned from 1939 to 1958.


0.25 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Bert Seal, 2003.


Bert Seal ARAMCO Photographic Collection
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2024-03: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057