Some of the French newspaper clippings on display at the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi's exclusive exhibition entitled “The French Cultural Diplomacy in the UAE at the time of Shaikh Zayed (1974-2004)." Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Rare archives and photographs that have never been seen by the public before went on display on Sunday as part of an exhibition celebrating the long-standing cultural ties between the UAE and France.

Organised by Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, the exhibition — French Cultural Diplomacy in the UAE at the time of Shaikh Zayed — showcases France’s relationship with the UAE from 1974, with all of the documentation collected from the archives of France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Centre of Diplomatic Archives. The exhibition will be open until October 28.

“This exhibition is focused on the cultural diplomacy and dialogue between France and the UAE during the life and career of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. All of the documents and photographs on display are meant to show the different aspects of this cultural collaboration between both countries going back to 1974,” said Yann Rodier, head of History Department at Sobonne Abu Dhabi and the main organiser of the exhibition.

“It took a long time to collect and gather all of the data, there were hundreds of different documents to go through and then it was also about choosing the right documents and photographs to put on display,” he added, explaining the process that went into making the exhibition which he says took around nine months.

“The archives that have been selected for display show the diplomatic history, cultural history, economic history and the international relations between France and the UAE. They show how the relationship between both countries has been there since the foundation of the UAE,” said Rodier.

Abdullah Al Beloushi, 19, an Emirati student attending Sorbonne Abu Dhabi said the institute was a testament to the strong relations between the UAE and France during the time of Shaikh Zayed.

“Institutes like Sorbonne Abu Dhabi are a legacy of Shaikh Zayed and his work. The university opened after he passed away but he was the one who put the foundations in place with his vision that always encouraged cultural dialogue and the removal of cultural barriers.

“This university stands as a bridge between different civilisations — Europe and the Arab world, it’s a very positive thing for Emiratis like myself to come and learn here and to get a good understanding of other people and cultures,” he added.

Al Beloushi says he now speaks fluent French and is also currently mastering his language skills in Italian.

“Culture is very important, I think every country needs to encourage cultural diplomacy because it can lead to so many benefits. If you look at the UAE now, thanks to several of its initiatives it is starting to be seen as a cultural hub, there are so many international art shows, exhibitions, musical and theatre concerts that are now coming here,” Al Beloushi said.