Saudi-French cultural cooperation: 5 golden years | مركز سمت للدراسات

Saudi-French cultural cooperation: 5 golden years

Date & time : Wednesday, 21 June 2023

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan


Ninety-seven years passed between the first visit to France — in 1926 — of the then Saudi Viceroy of Hijaz, His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud (later His Majesty the King), and the recent visit of the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to the Elysee Palace. During this period, Saudi-French ties saw considerable and significant developments, during which strategic cooperation expanded to advanced levels, especially in the cultural field.

The French Republic was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, and subsequently marked notable state visits such as the historic meeting between King Faisal and President Charles de Gaulle in 1967.

Over the years, the collaboration between Riyadh and Paris has brought benefits to both nations, with positive impacts felt beyond the bilateral relationship. Our nations have made significant strides in strengthening our cultural partnership since the first Saudi-French cultural cooperation agreement was signed in 1963. This has been followed by numerous partnerships to foster deeper cultural relations. The Arab World Institute, situated on the banks of the River Seine, serves as a testament to the potential of our cooperation in a complex and challenging world in which building cultural bridges is of utmost importance.

Over the decades, Saudi and French leaders have worked to strengthen the partnership. These efforts reached new heights following the visit of the Saudi crown prince to Paris in early 2018. This visit was a milestone that lifted the degree of our cooperation to historic levels, and fostered a greater cultural exchange, expanding areas of cooperation to include various sectors such as museums, filmmaking, heritage and antiquities, and culinary arts.

The history of our cultural cooperation has undergone a significant change, coinciding with Saudi Vision 2030 which has placed culture and arts among its key priorities to achieve its strategic pillars of building a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation.

In June 2018, King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a significant move toward elevating the importance of culture in Saudi Arabia by establishing the first ministry dedicated to culture in a country that has a vast history of arts and culture. I was honored by King Salman’s trust as he appointed me as the first minister of culture. I have embarked on my mission alongside my colleagues to realize the ministry’s vision of flourishing arts and culture across Saudi Arabia that enriches lives, celebrates national identity, and builds understanding between people. Paris was one of the global capitals where we engaged across sectors and exchanged our perspectives and experiences, eventually leading to France becoming one of the Kingdom’s most important cultural partners.

Since the crown prince’s visit, we have made significant progress in our cultural partnership. Cultural cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and its French counterpart has been reflected in numerous sectors. It has entered promising and prosperous cultural spaces in films, museums, music, culinary arts, architecture and design, and underwater cultural heritage.

Located in the northwest region of Saudi Arabia, AlUla is home to the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, which is located 400 km from the futuristic city of NEOM, where our successful partnership with France has paved the way for several notable achievements. The Royal Commission for AlUla and French partners translated the historic cooperation agreement between the Saudi and French governments in April 2018, which included knowledge sharing and exchange for the cultural, economic, and tourism development of AlUla Governorate.

AlUla’s Scholarship Program, for example, is cooperating with leading French universities to enhance national competencies and capabilities in archaeology, architecture, urban planning, infrastructure, heritage, arts, agriculture, knowledge transfer, and technology localization, among others. Cooperation also extends to notable French partners, such as the French Agency for AlUla Development, Campus France Foundation, Arab World Institute, the Louvre Museum, Ferrandi Institute, and more.

In December 2022 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first French archaeological excavation mission to the Kingdom, after Saudi and French scientists penned compelling accounts of their findings while excavating in several Saudi regions.

Over the past five years there have been qualitative transfers in our cultural cooperation, thanks to the Saudi and French leaders’ shared commitment and recognition of the importance of this cooperation to continue strengthening our bilateral partnership. Saudi Vision 2030 has opened vast opportunities and we are working with partners globally to leverage these opportunities.

We have a deep history of science and scientific discoveries, and we have the potential to create sustainable and influential cultural sectors at both local and global, social and economic levels. There is always an opportunity for friends from all over the world, including our French friends, to join us on our ambitious journey.

Despite the rapid and significant achievements we have accomplished in our bilateral partnership, there is still so much more we can build on to bring transformative and impactful outcomes in the cultural sphere for both nations.

Source: Arab News


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