Noura Al Kaabi hails French ties: 'I would like them to know how different the UAE is'

Minister of Culture and Youth tells The National of her joy at hearing President Sheikh Mohamed speak in Paris

Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi says the cultural relationship between the UAE and France is a top priority. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi says she was overjoyed when President Sheikh Mohamed spoke about the strong cultural links shared by the UAE and France during his visit to Paris this week.

The cultural relationship between the UAE and France is a top priority, she told The National.

Ms Al Kaabi, who was part of the UAE delegation that went to France, said she was immensely proud when she heard the words of Sheikh Mohamed at a banquet on Monday hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles.

"It is true that we have political and economic ties, but our cultural co-operation represents our utmost collaboration and this mirrors the quality of this strategic partnership," Sheikh Mohamed said.

The President's words bear testimony to the cultural links between the UAE and France, Ms Al Kaabi said.

“The French Minister of Culture and I looked at each other and smiled the moment our President said that," she said.

"That sentence reminds us that we have a very important job to do and make sure that we don't lose that [trust and faith].”

Ms Al Kaabi said she hopes that countries such as France get to know the UAE and its people better and understand that the country has much more to offer than its five-star hotels and high-rise buildings.

“I would like them to know how different the UAE is," she said.

"Emiratis and people from more than 200 nationalities who call the UAE home have uniquely different sets of values.

"The different nationalities, the projects, the leadership, our beautiful federal system, make our model very different, one that we should appreciate.

“We signed the Abrahamic Accords, we're a country that is interested in dialogue. So I hope people from other countries understand our values, what we like to eat and how we dress, and things that are beyond the glitz and glamour that the UAE is known for.

“The social fabric is something that is really important to consider. And, of course, you know, we have lots of other things to share, whether it's our students who are making us proud, the individuals who are representing us at entities like UNESCO and our movements.

"The UAE has seven emirates and each has its own cultural offerings, and we want to extend that.”

President Sheikh Mohamed visits Paris - in pictures

UAE's Spirit of Mosul initiative

The UAE has taken on a major role in cultural diplomacy by supporting artists from the UAE and abroad and reviving buildings of historical and cultural importance.

The country's flagship initiative 'Revive the Spirit of Mosul' helps in the recovery of one of Iraq's iconic cities.

The UAE is the biggest donor to help restore the historic minarets and churches in Mosul, which were devastated when ISIS took control of the area.

The project is funded by the UAE, which gave $50 million to the UN agency.

Reviving Mosul is not only about rebuilding heritage sites, but also about empowering the local population as agents of change involved in the process of rebuilding their city.

“I think the most symbolic and most important outcome of this is seeing the youth of Mosul, talking about the project more than anyone else, more than us, or more than the Unesco,” Ms Al Kaabi said.

Outside the Middle East, the UAE has helped to restore a theatre at Fontainebleau to its original glory.

Restoration of artefacts at Mosul Museum- in pictures

The UAE is also the only country in the world that shares the iconic Louvre Museum. There will also be upcoming exhibitions showcasing the work of Emirati artists in France.

“The Louvre is not just the beautiful façade, it is the institution and everything that comes with it,” Ms Al Kaabi said.

“A story that I always enjoy telling is about the role of Emiratis at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi - when it was inaugurated.

"Their role was mainly limited to protocol but today you see them in curation and tomorrow, you'll hopefully see one of them as the director of the museum.

"I think this is the journey that we want to work on. And the journey doesn't stop there, it doesn't stop in the UAE, it goes beyond the borders in the different partnerships we have in terms of how we can protect and preserve indigenous cultural heritage, and cultural sites that suffered from conflicts.”

Another project where both France and the UAE are major stockholders is ALIPH — the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas.

ALIPH has supported more than 100 projects to protect museums, libraries, and archives.

“We believe our future is an extension of our history. It's something that we share with the French and we want to build on it,” she said.

“Another aspect that we are discussing, and I talked about it with the French minister of culture, is that we want to do more when it comes to creative industries, gaming, fashion designing, film production, and I feel there is a lot to do in these areas."

The Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi will help three artists from the UAE to perform at the Biennale de Lyon, an international contemporary art event in France, next September.

On film production, Ms Al Kaabi said: “We have waited too long that we better do it right now. It's never about the glitzy film festivals. It's about the content that you create, and how you make it travel around the world or inspire your own community. Hopefully, I'll be able to share with you some news soon.”

During her visit to France, Ms Al Kaabi also visited the office of the Permanent Delegation of the UAE to Unesco, Wam news agency said.

The re-opening of the newly renovated office coincides with the 50th anniversary of the year the UAE became a Unesco member state in 1972.

During the visit, Ms Al Kaabi met with officials and staff and saw pieces by Emirati artists such as Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Afra Al Dhaheri, Mohammed Kazem, Nasser Nasrallah, and others.

The office provides a space for visitors to experience both the culture and traditions of the UAE, as well as its contemporary art.

Updated: July 23, 2022, 11:29 AM