20th October 2014
An extract from an article in Arab News by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim:
Now let us focus on the famous young Italian in the Saudi desert known to many old Aramco pioneers as the Italian pirate. In the mid 1940s, there were more than 2,000 Italians working at the Saudi oil installations. According to a book titled, The Caravan Goes On, by Frank Jungers, after the end of WWII, Aramco hired many Italian workers who were stationed in Eritrea. They were hired on single status like many other nationalities because the lack or shortage of family housing for Aramco employees. The Italians were housed in two places, One in Dhahran and the other in Ras Tanura. They had their own kitchen staff and their own recreation facilities. For the Italians, Saudi or American food does not work. We all know about the unique and delicious taste of the Italian cuisine. They were very talented.
Among them was a 24-year-old man with a good sense of humor and a camera. During those days, it was unique thing for the local population, as most of them were unaware of the technological developments taking outside of the Kingdom.
His name was Ilo Battiglli. He was basically a draftsman but during his daily work he used his camera more than any other tool. He was a bright photographer who recorded very important moments in the history of the Saudi oil industry. Workers in Aramco changed his name and started calling him “Ilo the Pirate” because he had his studio on the beach. Many people saw his work and the valuable photographs that he took at many different places. He was seen photographing Saudis, Americans, Italians and many others, which reflected the benefit of putting hands together. His and the work of some other workers helped preserve the story of discovering the most important commodity in today’s history, which changed the fortunes of Saudi Arabia. This Italian photographer or as he is called the Pirate by his coworkers 70 years ago showed us with camera shots the importance of working and living together no matter what part of the world you come from.