The French Connection: Examining UAE's solid ties with France

The two countries established relations through a diplomatic mission exchange in 1972


Rasha Abu Baker

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Published: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 1:56 PM

Last updated: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 2:23 PM

The UAE and France have a solid historical relationship which began shortly after the establishment of the United Arab Emirates in December 1971. A few months later, in 1972, a diplomatic mission exchange proceeded in both countries.

Since then, UAE-France relations have grown steadily over the years, with over 30,000 French citizens now living here and over 600 French companies operating in the Emirates.

Today, this successful relationship has been taken to a new level after President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan travelled to France on his first foreign state visit. Over two days, he and his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, signed 10 agreements that will further solidify bilateral relations.

The UAE is home to a number of French cultural, business and educational establishments, and in return, as you will see below, some of France's most prestigious cultural landmarks reveal a remarkable and distinguished nod to the UAE.

Below are 10 of the top French-Emirati cultural and educational collaborations which certainly bring the French connection home.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on Saadiyat Island in 2017. It is the first international museum in the Arab world and France's largest overseas cultural project.

The project is a result of an unprecedented partnership for cultural exchange that was signed between the two countries in 2007. The partnership combines the UAE's bold vision of cultural progression and openness with France's expertise in the world of art and museums.

Agence France-Muséums – a collective of 17 of France's most renowned cultural institutions – coordinates the loan of artworks to this UAE museum and provides management expertise.

Sorbonne University, Abu Dhabi

Sorbonne Abu Dhabi was established in 2006 after an an agreement between the Sorbonne University in Paris and the Government of Abu Dhabi, Sorbonne Abu Dhabi.

The historic agreement represented a shared vision between the UAE Government and Sorbonne University in Paris to bring world-class standards of French education to the Middle East.

In December 2009, Sorbonne Abu Dhabi moved into its purpose-built, permanent campus on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, which boasts over 93,000m2 of teaching, recreational and accommodation facilities. This includes a library, a 700-seat auditorium, a sports centre and a cafeteria.

Jacques Chirac Street, Abu Dhabi

Jacques Chirac Street was named in memory of the former French President, the late Jacques Chirac, in November 2019.

The four-kilometre road stretches from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Bridge to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum that symbolises the deep historical ties between the UAE and France and serves as a beacon of cultural exchange and understanding between the Middle East and the Western world.

Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, inaugurated the street in the presence of the late French President's daughter, Claude Chirac.

Lycée Français Louis Massignon – Abu Dhabi

Established in 1972, Lycée Louis-Massignon (LLM) was the first French school to open in the UAE. It is now one of 7 French schools operating in the UAE.

Present in Abu Dhabi for more than 40 years, Lycée Louis Massignon is under the direct management of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE). The school welcomes more than 2,000 children from kindergarten to the high school on a 1.6 hectare campus.

Fouquet's Abu Dhabi, Louvre Museum

Fouquet's is a historic high-end brasserie restaurant which opened on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris 123 years ago. Today, diners in the UAE can also experience its brand of French fine dining while immersed in a rich French setting steeped in France's cultural and art scene.

For decades, Fouquet's Paris has been a place where people from the world of culture would meet, and it has strong ties with French cinema.

The world-renowned restaurant at Louvre Abu Dhabi brings the epitome of fine French brasserie dining to the UAE with a menu designed in collaboration with the French Michelin star-winning chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Alliance Francaise, Abu Dhabi

The Alliance Française Abu Dhabi is a non-profit organisation which opened in 1974. Its main mission is teaching the French language and the cultural discovery of Francophone cultures. The organisation promotes Franco-Emirati dialogue around leisure activities, conferences, concerts, exhibitions, festivals and more.

French Fashion Institute ESMOD, Dubai

ESMOD Dubai is the first and only fashion institute that is fully dedicated to fashion in the Middle East. ESMOD's campus in Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) launched in 2006 and follows in the footsteps of ESMOD Paris, which is the world's first and oldest fashion design school, founded by Alexis Lavigne, also known for his invention of the mannequin, in 1841.

The school was named the Best Fashion School in the UAE in 2019 by Global Brands for its exceptional performance.

INSEAD, Abu Dhabi

The European Institute of Business Administration, or INSEAD, is one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools with five campuses and centres around the globe. The school offers a variety of graduate programmes, including MBAs, PHD in Management, and a Business Foundations Certificate.

It was founded by a renowned professor from Harvard Business School, French-American Georges Doriot, in 1957. In 2007, INSEAD's only Middle East campus opened in ADGM Square, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre, Paris

In 2019, the Château de Fontainebleau's historic Imperial Theatre reopened to the public, following years of restoration works made possible by contributions from the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.

In recognition of Abu Dhabi's contribution to the restoration, the theatre has been renamed as the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre.

The 19th century building fell into disuse in 1868, remaining closed for 140 years, and took 12 years to renovate after the late Sheikh Khalifa financed the restoration of the structure in 2007.

Sheikh Zayed Centre at The Louvre Museum, Paris

The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Centre was inaugurated in 2016 at a special ceremony at the Musee du Louvre in the French capital.

The Centre, located in the Pavillon de l'Horloge, pays tribute to the UAE's Founding Father and epitomises the unique level of cultural relations the two countries enjoy to this day.


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