When I first arrived in Jeddah in 2002, Saudi Arabia was not the country we live and work in today. It was a different time, and our two countries were facing different challenges together.
Jeddah was my first assignment as a diplomat. Naturally, I felt very far from home in the beginning. I struggled with learning about Saudi history, customs, and the Arabic language. It did not take long, however, for the city and people of Jeddah to welcome me into their hearts and homes with warmth and kindness.
I grew to love this city. The desert, the mountains, and the sea; the architecture and art; grabbing mutabbag for breakfast, making a late-night stop at Al-Baik, or sampling different families’ sambousek recipes during Ramadan. It was with sadness that I departed in 2004, wondering if I would ever return.
When I was selected to return to Jeddah in 2018 as the consul general, I was deeply honored. I joined a talented team, dedicated to strengthening and expanding the important relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. As I complete my three-year tenure as US consul general in Jeddah, I am honored to have helped lead and extend the partnership between our two countries and our two peoples. Our partnership began more than 75 years ago with a meeting between King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin Roosevelt. It has grown now to encompass countless Americans and Saudis, extending far beyond the official relationship between our two governments. Tens of thousands of Americans call Saudi Arabia home; dozens of American companies have partnered with Saudi businesses to generate prosperity in both countries; more than 30,000 Saudis study in the US each year and American professors teach at top Saudi universities.
As part of my work, I have had the good fortune to travel all over western Saudi Arabia, from Madinah to Tabuk and from Abha to Yanbu. I am continuously amazed by the beautiful diversity of the Saudi people, of their local traditions, language, and food, which highlight the unique Saudi culture. I am deeply appreciative of the Saudi people’s hospitality and welcoming spirit. Those visits left many beautiful memories that I will carry with me forever.
I have also seen the remarkable changes at work in the Kingdom and the impact that Vision 2030 has had on the economy and society.
Ryan M. Gliha
On my travels, I have also seen the remarkable changes at work in the Kingdom and the impact that Vision 2030 has had on the economy and society. My colleagues and I at the consulate and throughout the US Mission to the Kingdom are committed to working with Saudi Arabia to advance the goals laid out in the vision. Leading US companies and institutions are uniquely positioned to serve as partners in developing sectors like infrastructure, transportation, film and television, education, tourism, digital services, and many more. American universities offer top-quality education and training to Saudi students, who can then return to help build and diversify the economy.
Over the past three years, my team and I have launched a series of initiatives designed to foster these connections to the benefit of both countries. I am confident that these important efforts with Saudi partners will continue to bear fruit and strengthen the relationship long after my departure.
As my family and I prepare for this second departure from Saudi Arabia, I have been honored to work with a talented team at the consulate, and I am deeply appreciative of the warm hospitality and welcoming engagement that my Saudi hosts have shown everywhere I have traveled. Working together, we have demonstrated that with shared goals, with communication, and with the exchange of ideas and people, we can build lasting bridges between our two countries.
I know I will leave a piece of myself here on the shores of the Red Sea. But I will take with me a heart full of friendships and memories and the sincere hope that we will meet again soon.
Thank you, Jeddah! Thank you, Saudi Arabia! Until we meet again.
• Ryan M. Gliha is the outgoing US consul general in Jeddah and the US representative to the OIC.