Alliance Francaise has opened newly renovated spaces in its Oud Metha branch, as it celebrates its 35th birthday in Dubai.
First housed in Bur Dubai, and since 1995 on land donated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, the French cultural centre is sprucing itself up. Gone is the narrow, rectangular room that was its cinema: now it boasts a full-fledged theatre with ample, stepped seating. The library – Dubai’s only French-language library – has been updated, with new seating systems and opportunities to engage with a variety of media (indeed, it’s now known as the Mediatheque). And for the new cafe, the Odeon, they have brought in Thomas Duhamel, who previously worked at Zuma and STAY, as chef.
The organisation inaugurated the spaces today with a visit from Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State, and French diplomat Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, as part of the year of Emirati-French Cultural Dialogue that celebrates the historical ties between the two countries – embodied most spectacularly by the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi last year.
Alliance Francaise serves as a meeting point for French and francophone expatriates in Dubai, offering a range of cultural programming, including lectures, French film screenings, open-mic nights and exhibitions, as well as French language courses. This spring, its Cine Kids programme is showing two films by Jacques-Remy Girerd, and the new theatre will host simulcasts of classic French theatre, captured live at the Comedie-Francaise in Paris, such as Moliere’s Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin the Schemer) and Cyrano de Bergerac. There is also a lecture series devoted to Louvre Abu Dhabi, by art historian Philippine Motais de Narbonne.
Alliance Française in Dubai is one of 834 centres worldwide, in 132 countries. The UAE's oldest Alliance Francaise was established in 1974 in Abu Dhabi. Though it is known as a centre for French culture abroad, the first organisation was founded in Paris in 1883 by eminent figures including scientist Louis Pasteur and writer Jules Verne.