ABU DHABI // The UAE’s presidential cultural adviser on Wednesday received France’s Legion d’honneur [legion of honour] for his role in building partnerships between the two nations.
Dr Zaki Nusseibeh was presented the award by former French minister of culture Jack Lang, who is the president of the Arab World Institute in Paris.
Mr Lang said a book should be dedicated to Dr Nusseibeh’s accomplishments: “Zaki contributed a lot to present a new vision and portrayal of the UAE. A very highly cultured man, he was the inventor of the culture authority here.”
Dr Nusseibeh was born in Jerusalem in 1946. He came to the UAE in 1968 and worked as a journalist, then became the interpreter for Sheikh Zayed, Founding Father of the UAE.
His daughter, Dr Lana Nusseibeh, is the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Dr Nusseibeh was one of the main supporters of the Louvre Abu Dhabi project and one of the pioneers of the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, said Mr Lang.
Dr Nusseibeh said the efforts for which he was rewarded are “an obligation for everyone”.
“In the dark, crisis-struck world that we are living in today ... when we find the language of violence, hate and death trying to bury all dialogue between people, we all have to work harder to spread means for dialogue and understanding between civilisations,” he said.
The dialogue should be deeply cultural and as instructed by the holy Quran, enriched with knowledge and understanding of other nations’ languages, cultures and perspectives, he added.
He believed he received the decoration for strengthening the relations between the UAE and France since Sheikh Zayed’s first visit to the country, in 1974.
President Sheikh Khalifa’s visit followed, as well as the establishment of the Alliance Francaise cultural group.
Mr Lang said there were “numerous” UAE figures who also deserved the Legion d’honneur.
In fact, since he became the president of the Arab World Institute, he has focused on contributions from the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.
“We have great efforts with our presence in Gulf countries,” said Mr Lang.
He also described a Haj exhibition in Paris as a “great success” in explaining how “brilliant and peaceful Islam is and the rituals of Islam”.
A meeting last year focused on renewing portrayals of the Arab world, aiming to show the positive realities in many Arab countries, as opposed to what Mr Lang described as the media’s focus on violence.
He said that there had been efforts from France for the UAE to win Expo 2020.
The institute is not only focusing on showing the cultural and philosophical side, but also on technology and sustainability.
It is also working on teaching the Arabic language and introducing an Arabic examination.
“The UAE is no longer the Switzerland of the Gulf. It is playing a very active role. It is becoming a main actor,” said Michel Miraillet, the French ambassador to the UAE.