July 14 is a moment of pride and national unity

July 16, 2023
Catherine Corm-Kammoun, Consul General of France.
Catherine Corm-Kammoun, Consul General of France.

By Catherine Corm-Kammoun

As Consul General of France, it is my great honor to celebrate the French National Day, "Bastille Day", here in Jeddah, with our compatriots from the Western province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and with our Saudi friends. Celebrated since 1880, July 14 is a moment of pride and national unity, which brings together all citizens to honor their history, remember what gives meaning to the republican pact, and look ahead to the future.

Celebrating July 14 in Jeddah is also an opportunity to celebrate the friendship between French and Saudis, which is based on solid and ancient foundations, and has grown stronger over the years. Since the dawn of the relationship between France and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the year 1839, about two centuries ago, when France opened its first Consulate in Jeddah, and until today, our leaders have never stopped expanding the scope of our partnership, through mutual visits between the two countries.

In this perspective, the visit to France last month of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman at the head of a large ministerial delegation, is a historic step in our relations. The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron received the Crown Prince at the Elysee Palace on June 16, 2023, where they reviewed in depth ways to strengthen the French Saudi strategic partnership and regional and international issues on which our two countries have converging analyses and interests.

During his visit, the Crown Prince also attended the summit for a new global financial pact along Macron and launched officially the candidacy of Riyadh to host the World Expo in 2030, which France proudly supports.

Our relationship is also nourished by human exchanges between our two peoples, the sharing between our cultures, our knowledge, and the discovery of our respective heritages.

Alongside the teams of the Embassy of France in Riyadh, the Consulate General of France in Jeddah is contributing its stone to straightening this bilateral relationship and promoting France in Saudi Arabia.

The Consulate General plays an active role in facilitating contacts between French and Saudi business communities. In this regard, it relies on the partners of the consulate: Business France agency and the Circle of Franco-Saudi business of Jeddah — CAFSDA.

French companies are willing to contribute to the achievement of the Saudi Vision 2030. They are ready to share their know-how, localize their productions, contribute to the training of Saudi elites and to the empowerment of women, and put their expertise at the service of major diversification economic projects of the Kingdom. It's a win-win relationship. In the Western province, they are active in a large range of sectors like infrastructure, renewable energy, transportation, new technologies, water, health, heritage or tourism.

The consulate has also, for years, been committed to promoting culture. This season has been very rich. We had the pleasure to invite renowned French musicians to Jeddah, such as the Saïtkoulov trio, or the pianist François Mardirossian, to promote the richness of French gastronomy with famous chefs, to celebrate Europe month with our German and Italian colleagues, and the Francophonie festival with the many French-speaking partners in Jeddah.

UBT University once again opened the doors of its magnificent campus to us, to host several concerts, and we had the chance to listen to great Saudi poets led by Ahmed Al-Mulla, in Arabic and French, in the intimate setting of Sharbatly house, in the heart of Balad.

France also supports, through concrete actions, the extraordinary dynamic undergoing in the country. I will mention in particular the cinema sector, in which France continues to be at the forefront in supporting the development of the Saudi industry.

Once again, we were partners of the international film festival of the Red Sea, with the participation of 200 French film professionals. The third edition of the 48hour Film Challenge, initiated by the Consulate General of France in partnership with the Red Sea International Film Festival, has just been launched.

It promotes the emergence of young directors in the field of documentary film. France also contributes to the training of Saudi students for the diversity of film professions, in France, in institutions such as FEMIS or the Gobelins, or in Saudi Arabia, in institutions like Effat University.

In the heritage sector, the past year was an opportunity to celebrate, in Al-Ula, 20 years of French archeology in Saudi Arabia, and to launch new projects such as the creation of a museum of contemporary art in Al-Ula, unique in the region, thanks to the partnership agreement recently signed between the National Center for Art and Culture Georges Pompidou and the Royal Commission for Al-Ula.

The awarding in June to Bouygues group of construction of the contract of the Sharaan hotel designed by the famous French architect Jean Nouvel will also allow to create a new iconic Franco-Saudi architectural destination in Al-Ula.

The sustainable and innovative development of Al-Ula, implemented thanks to the exceptional cooperation established since 2018 between our two countries, is part of the country's tourism development strategy. We encourage French tourists to come and discover the immense wealth of this historic region.

The French community residing in the Western province of the Kingdom, meanwhile, counts more than 2,500 expatriates. It is an active community, fully integrated into its environment, present in Jeddah but also in other governorates such as Madinah, Tabuk or Khamis Mushait.

Many French people also have the habit of coming to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. This year, nearly 9,000 compatriots were able to participate in the Hajj and as many in the last season of Umrah. In this regard, I would like to congratulate and thank the Saudi authorities for all of their efforts made to welcome the pilgrims in excellent conditions.

I would also like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Saudi authorities for their exceptional support in the evacuation of French and foreign nationals from Sudan to Jeddah last April.

Our Consulate also acts through its visas activity, to facilitate the travel of Saudis to France. Many of them choose France as a touristic destination, but also to establish business relations. We encourage Saudi companies to go and invest in our country, including in high-tech sectors.

Our country has also been welcoming Saudi students for a long time. There are several hundreds of Saudi students in French universities, who are specializing in fields such as medicine, law, engineering, culinary arts or other disciplines. We want to strengthen university cooperation. It is in this context that a “Choose France” university fair, organized this year in Riyadh and Jeddah, enabled a dozen French establishments to meet Saudi universities.

There are also many places in Jeddah where it is possible to learn French: of course at the French International School of Jeddah, which has 1,000 students, as well as many other schools teaching the French program. Also, the French Cultural Center in Jeddah offers French courses for adults, they have nearly 600 learners, and the center expands its cultural offers with French cooking workshops, theater in French, cinema for children.

— The author is the Consul General of France in Jeddah

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