Jean-Paul Tarud Ambassador of Chile. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: Jean-Paul Tarud, from Chile, was just a child when he celebrated the UAE’s fifth birthday and visited the palaces of some of the country’s most prominent rulers. Now, he is the first ambassador of Chile to the UAE.

Born and raised in the UAE in the mid-’70s, Tarud spent a total of 23 years living in the country he now calls home. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Tarud spoke about his eventful journey from the UAE to Chile and back while describing the UAE’s evolution through his eyes.

“I do call this place home although I am from Chile and I do represent my country. I have lived almost 60 per cent of my life in the UAE and that alone gives me more motivation to work on the bilateral relationship,” he said.

It all started in 1974 when Tarud’s parents first moved to Sharjah at a time when the Pinochet regime was in power in Chile. A few years later, they moved to Dubai where they were the architects in charge of the Jebel Ali Hotel project.

Born in the Iranian Hospital in Dubai, Tarud attended the French School in Sharjah for his primary and middle school education before moving to Saudi Arabia in 1985 with his family. “My father was appointed the ambassador of Chile in Saudi Arabia throughout the Gulf War and was a non-resident ambassador to the UAE,” he said.

A frequent visitor to the UAE with his family, Tarud decided to move back to Dubai in 2001, finding work in the private sector. Following in the steps of his father, he started representing his country in 2006 when he was appointed Trade Commissioner of Chile at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was promoted as Chile’s first ambassador to the UAE just four years later.

“It’s a funny story — my father was non-resident ambassador to the UAE 24 years ago and he had the opportunity to present his credentials to Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and I had the opportunity to present my credentials to [President His Highness] Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” he said.

Descending from a family of politicians, Tarud, whose grandfather was Chile’s foreign minister, said he was bound to become a diplomat. “It’s in our blood, politics really runs in the family, and I’d say this just happened to me, it’s fate,” he said with a chuckle.

Recalling days from his childhood when Dubai’s World Trade Centre was the tallest building in the emirate and the Burj Al Arab area was known as the Chicago Beach Club, Tarud spoke about his fondest memories as a child living in Sharjah.

“Some of the memories that left an impression on me was driving down to Abu Dhabi from Dubai and reaching the main palace and meeting Shaikh Zayed. Another was seeing Shaikh Rashid [Bin Saaed Al Maktoum] at the Hatta Majlis when I was just a child, and accompanying my dad to the wedding of [His Highness] Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, [Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai],” Tarud said.

Tarud, who can speak Arabic, is no stranger to Emirati traditions, cuisine and dialect. Serving as the Chilean ambassador for five years to date, Tarud currently resides in Abu Dhabi with his wife and two children.

“When you’ve seen Dubai without traffic and you remember the days when most of the coast was just a beach, you have a bit of nostalgia about the old days,” he said.

“Now the country has changed dramatically and has modernised as a part of the economic growth and it is fantastic,” he added.