RIYADH: After two years as Argentine ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Guillermo Nielsen will bid farewell to the Kingdom on Sunday. Before packing his bags, he spoke to Arab News about his time in the country.
When asked about his fondest experiences, the envoy said it was difficult to narrow it down to just one.
“It’s difficult to choose one in general but I would say what I found is really a connection of things,” he said.
“I would like to stress that when you get to Riyadh and you look at the people, you look at the way people dress, the way women dress, you see differences, and this is very different from Argentina, this is totally different.
“But through time and through interaction you realize that we have more in common than we think. Maybe that’s because we have Arab roots.”
Nielsen said he found many similarities between the Arabic and Argentinian cultures.
“There are many, many more things in common and especially the importance of the family, the way we gather, the way we live, the relationship within the family.
“Those are the things you only realize with time and talking and interacting with Saudi friends and Saudi people.”
Nielsen said that he had not traveled as much as he would have liked during his time in the Kingdom, though he did visit Jeddah, Khobar and AlUla.
“I couldn’t miss AlUla, which was a fantastic, fantastic place.”
The ambassador also explained how he came to get the job of his country’s envoy to the Kingdom, saying an old friend with whom he played polo planted the idea of living in Saudi Arabia in his mind.
“He started talking about Vision 2030 and how things are going in Saudi Arabia. ‘You have to come and see,’ he told me.
“At the time I was head of YPF, the largest oil and gas company in Argentina. I left the presidency and was offered an embassy in Europe. And much to the surprise of our president and minister of foreign affairs, I said I didn’t want to go to Europe, I wanted to go to Saudi Arabia.”
Nielsen said that during his time as ambassador he worked mostly on the economic and cultural side of relations.
On the trade side, he said Argentina exported beef and alfalfa to the Kingdom — the latter is used to feed Saudi dairy cows — while the two nations were also working together in the field of information technology.
One of the main areas of concern for the outgoing ambassador is food security.
“Food security is a big issue,” he said. “It has shown to be very important with the problems we had in Ukraine with the Russian invasion.
“I think that’s a major subject we have to tackle together and a major area of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Argentina.”