Abu Dhabi: Culture is one of the cornerstones of the strategic partnership between the UAE and France, as both countries believe in the importance of culture in strengthening the relations between communities and promoting the principles of tolerance.
The cultural ties date back to the establishment of the UAE, when the founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, began cultural cooperation between the two countries, resulting in the establishment of the Lycee Louis Massignon in Abu Dhabi in 1972 and the Alliance Francaise Abu Dhabi in 1974.
Over the past 50 years, the cultural partnership has completed many major initiatives that encouraged communication and cooperation between the two countries in culture and education. In 2006, the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi was established.
The Sorbonne University in Paris and Pierre and Marie Curie University signed an agreement to open a campus in Abu Dhabi, offering specialist academic programmes at bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, as well as other further education programmes.
In 2016, the ‘International Conference on Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas’, that was held in Abu Dhabi, was a key milestone in the cultural partnership between the UAE and France, which led to the establishment of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), an international fund to support world heritage at risk, in which the UAE and France contributed $45 million (Dh165.5 million), in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is one of the key cultural projects aimed at encouraging cultural interactions between the UAE and France and is the first international museum in the Arab world and the largest French cultural achievement abroad.
During the museum’s inauguration in 2017, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said it is a key landmark in the distinguished ties between the two countries.
In 2017, the UAE also contributed €5 million (Dh18.7 million) to support the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Hall was opened at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The UAE donated €10 million to restore the Palace of Fontainebleau in France.
The UAE-France Cultural Dialogue in 2018 was a unique opportunity to support various initiatives, projects and programmes, as well as discuss crucial topics, including art, artificial intelligence and protecting cultural heritage at risk.
In December 2018, the UAE became an affiliate member of the International Organisation of Francophonie. It also decided to reintroduce the teaching of the French language in public schools at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. More than 8,000 Emirati students have learnt the French language.