French president Emmanuel Macron declared on Wednesday night that the UAE and France are "forever intertwined".
In an impassioned speech at the official opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Mr Macron said that together Abu Dhabi and Paris are on a path of "conquest" for beauty and culture, as part of a "duty for the youth of your country, the region and the world".
He emphasised the role of "beauty" and "culture" to support civilisations rejecting those who seek to divide people.
Mr Macron addressed Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of the UAE armed forces, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who welcomed hundreds of guests to one of the most anticipated events of the art world.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Among the guests were King Hamad bin Issa of Bahrain and King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in addition to members of the UAE government and instrumental figures in making the museum a reality, including Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Saif Ghobash, Director General of the the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism and architect Jean Nouvel.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid spoke of the importance of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in "representing the best of the East and the best of the West". In his speech, Sheikh Mohammed called for "an alliance of civilisations, beyond just a dialogue between civilisations", stating that the museum is an embodiment of the "legacy of Zayed", in reference to Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the nation.
He went on to say that it would allow the battling of extremism with "beauty", lauding "our shared human civilisation".
The French president sees the Louvre Abu Dhabi as the foundation for an expansion of French culture and influence in the Middle East and Africa. In his speech, Mr Macron pledged to work hard to get the French language back in schools in the UAE – saying that it is not a "closed language", rather one that is about "reason and light". He said it "should not be a language of colonisation".
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid accompanied the French president, along with the Kings of Bahrain and Morocco, and Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani as they toured the museum.