Manama: American twin sisters Jackie Voskamp and Joyce Kriesmer couldn’t hide their joy after meeting Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, years after meeting his father the late King Abdul Aziz in 1947 and his brother the late King Abdullah in 2008.
Twins Jackie Voskamp and Joyce Kriesmer, 86, met King Salman at the stately Andrew Mellon Auditorium in the US capital Washington, one day after the monarch’s meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House.
Saudi daily Al Sharaq Al Awsat on Monday termed the meeting as “part of the particularly unique relationship between the families of pioneering American oil workers and the Saudi kings that stretches back nearly seven decades.”
The Los-Angeles born twins met King Abdul Aziz in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in January 1947, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.
In an interview with the daily, the twins talked about their “colourful lives in the Middle East”, and how their father Roy Haug, in 1936 landed a high-paying job ($209, Dh767 a month) with Aramco drilling oil wells near Dhahran. The family joined him after the end of the Second World War.
Recalling their years in the Arabian Gulf, the twins “talked warmly of the decades they spent in Saudi Arabia, the generosity of the Saudi people and the camaraderie among the pioneering American oil workers who in 1933 established the remote desert drilling operation that would one day become Saudi Aramco, the world’s richest and largest oil company”.
The sisters said the “presence of twin teenage girls was so novel that in the town of Quatif a crowd of children chased the sisters down the street to get a closer look at their fair skin and matching features”.
The twins, who worked in the town’s library, passed the time taking Arabic lessons, swimming and going “pot picking,” which meant scouring the desert sands for geodes, jewellery, gold coins, pottery and other items.
However, their lives changed when they met their future husbands. In 1949, Jackie married George Larsen. They had two children and spent 27 years in Saudi Arabia plus three more in Nigeria and Beirut. After Larsen passed away, she married Raymond Voskamp.
Joyce married John Kriesmer in 1951. They had three children and spent 35 years in Saudi Arabia before returning to the United States. John passed away in 2013.
The twins were invited back to Dhahran in May 2008 for Aramco’s 75th anniversary celebration and met King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz who ruled Saudi Arabia from August 2005 until January 2015.
The twins said they “hardly recognised the now vast town of Dhahran, but they immediately remembered how much they loved the gracious Saudi people who welcomed them ‘home’ after so many years away.”
“We were treated like rock stars. I don’t think I’ve still come down to earth yet,” Joyce said, quoted by the daily.