By Arab News
By Zeina Zbibo
On the occasion of the launch of the new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia, French Ambassador to the Kingdom Ludovic Pouille hosted an evening celebrating French-Saudi cultural dialogue at the French Embassy in Riyadh.
“You make French culture present in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Pouille, addressing an audience of artists, entrepreneurs and officials.
The ambassador hailed the joint effort by France and Saudi Arabia to enable the success of cultural events in the Kingdom. “I want to thank our Saudi partners and friends, artists, professors, entrepreneurs and officials from the Saudi government for their contribution in strengthening on a daily basis our cultural relationship,” he added.
Among the participants were partners from the EU, Francophone countries, the Alliance Franҫaise d’Arabie Saoudite led by Zaher Al-Munajjed and the French Embassy’s team led by Catherine le Thomas.
Saudi Arabia hosts 150,000 French speakers and 500 teachers of the French language in various institutions. The French presence in the Kingdom is marked by a network of schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar, making education one of the primary elements on which the two nations collaborate.
As part of its Vision 2030, the Kingdom has initiated large-scale events enabling its development as a culture, education, tourism and sports hub on an international level. These events include Riyadh Season, Jeddah Season, AlUla Season, the Red Sea International Film Festival, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale and the upcoming Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah.
“We are all very lucky to live in a thrilling context in which Saudi Arabia is rapidly opening up and exploring new directions for its future. The Kingdom is now witnessing what President (Emmanuel) Macron called a ‘cultural revolution’ during his visit to Jeddah,” said the ambassador.
The new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia is a promising one, with events starting in October with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of French-Saudi cooperation in the field of archaeology. The event is a two-day symposium that will see the participation of the 15 French archaeological missions collaborating with Saudi archaeologists across the Kingdom in the Farasan Islands, Hegra and AlUla, among other locations.
The second event in the pipeline is “Digital November,” which is aimed at bringing art and technology together. A series of tournaments, workshops and other activities centered on esports and e-games will be featured.
Other cultural cooperation projects will involve music, cinema, fashion, design and poetry, with the annual Night of Poetry to be held in December.
Franco-Saudi cooperation is also evident through the Kingdom’s giga-projects — such as the development of AlUla — that will shape the country for decades to follow.
AfAlula, the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, is collaborating with the Royal Commission for AlUla to develop the region “based on an intergovernmental agreement signed in April 2018 during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris,” Pouille said.
The AlUla project is the first of a series of initiatives that aim to reinforce the ties between the two countries.
Since the French president’s visit to Jeddah in December 2021, several agreements have been signed, including one for Villa Hegra, an ambitious institution of contemporary art that will enable the Kingdom to build a creative and artistic hub, the first of its kind in the Middle East.
The agreements signal the “beginning of a new era of cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia,” according to the ambassador.