With a difficult task of “building bridges” and “strengthening mutual relations”, he arrived in town a year ago. And with a passion for sports, and years of experience in the job he loves, Portuguese ambassador Antonio Tanger knew he had landed in the right place at the right time.
Here in a country gearing up to host the biggest sports festival in the world in five years’ time, he finds ample opportunities to satisfy his obsession for both: sports and diplomacy.
Given the challenge to build the embassy of his country here ground up, Ambassador Tanger has already made significant strides in a matter of just over a year. Coming from a family of diplomats, he has further strengthened cultural ties between the two countries.
And he is on the spot with his plans to enhance business and trade between his country and Qatar with a particular focus on the private sector in the future. This is what he loves doing and has been doing all his life, “building sustainable relationships.”
“I am very happy with the life I had. I have no regrets to have embraced it. My father was also a diplomat. And if I was to go back in time, I would have done exactly the same,” Ambassador Tanger tells Community in an interview at his office.
Qatar, he says, is an easy country to work and live in. “It is a small place, but it is a place where you would find everything. So it is not a difficult place to work in and to socialise unlike some countries where traffic is terrible. Here, it is not so bad,” explains the ambassador as he lowers his teacup onto his side table.
He has been to many countries before coming to Doha. Tanger has been on ambassadorial assignments to Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Israel, Brazil, Lithuania and Egypt. As a diplomat, he has served in Goa, India, where he opened the Consul General, and in Toronto, Canada. His first posting abroad, he recalls, was as first secretary in Beijing, China.
Tanger also finds Qatar a unique experience where the local population is just over 10 percent of the country. “It is very interesting. You have the world in a country and then there are the national citizens among them. From social point of view, I find it very interesting,” says the Portuguese ambassador.
Moreover, he is a sportsman. Coming from a country surrounded by Atlantic Ocean from one side, small wonder he loves sailing. He has been a champion in several categories in different countries and regions. And his second favourite sport is karate, and he practices it to date.
“And the third sport that I am not playing so much these days is tennis because you know (you need) legs and joints for playing tennis…there are no miracles,” the ambassador laughs.
He is very happy with the facilities available for these sports in Qatar such as tennis. For karate, he says he organises his own groups. However, he is not too happy with sailing here. The conditions are good, but the infrastructure needs improvement, he says.
“Although there are a number of boats in the sailing club and they are very well equipped with the hardware, the software such as people and organisation is lacking,” says the ambassador. He urges the Sailing Federation and the Olympic Committee to take a close look at sailing elsewhere in the region.
Qatar, he says, for even more reasons should be more active being implanted in the sailing world. The ambassador is an outgoing person. He loves going for walks, visiting Qatar’s museums and going to movies with friends.
A diplomat’s life in Qatar is socially very busy as there are over a hundred embassies and they are regularly invited by their local Qatari hosts on different occasions. “You cannot get bored here. There could be a party every other day, if you do not stop a little bit,” he laughs.
The ambassador says he tries to go to all the art exhibitions happening in town besides making efforts to establish closer relationship in the field of arts with Qatar. In the coming days, a number of Portuguese artistes will be performing at different venues in Doha.
This month a Portuguese Fado singer will perform at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) and, in November, Portugal for the first time will participate in the Katara European Jazz festival.
There are about 1,400 Portuguese nationals living in Qatar at the moment. They are employed in diverse industries. Most of them are associated with aviation, either flying Qatar Airways or working on the ground in support staff.
The ambassador says there are a number of Portuguese engineers working in different construction projects and the second biggest architecture company working in Qatar is from Portugal. “All in all, it is a much diverse community and it is a very good community. It does not give us any headaches,” says Ambassador Tanger.
He interacts with the community at multiple levels. The embassy has recently created the Portuguese Business Council in Qatar to be launched officially on the 8th of this month. “It will unite not only the Portuguese businessmen here but also those who work for other foreign and Qatari companies,” says the ambassador.
Tanger also plans to bring many Portuguese artisans to Qatar to showcase traditional art. Next year, he plans to organise workshops in different arts and hopes to interact with local institutions here. It will also be an opportunity for the expatriate Portuguese community to participate in.
The other important initiative the embassy has taken recently is starting out Portuguese language sessions for the children of Portuguese families living in Qatar. Next year, he hopes there will be about a hundred children enrolled in it in order to keep up with their mother tongue.
Ambassador Tanger says he would love to see more Portuguese individuals and companies coming to Qatar. However, he believes that for broader economic co-operation, cultural interaction and exchange has to happen first.
As more Qataris are now looking to invest in agriculture, he feels the Portuguese can help them with their experience and expertise in the sector.
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