Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Rapproche la France

2019 is Egypt-France cultural year. Nevine El-Aref highlights a series of upcoming events and visits celebrating relations between the two countries  


Rafale fighter aircraft

Two weeks ago Egypt and France announced 2019 as the Egypt-France Cultural Year, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the Suez Canal.

The year will witness a series of political, economic and cultural events.

Stephane Romatet, French ambassador to Egypt, said the celebrations come within the framework of strengthening bilateral relations and exchanging of experiences and activities between both countries in culture, history, archaeology and art.

Romatet said he expected the number of French tourists coming to Egypt to increase throughout the year, pointing out that there is already a large number of French citizens who have chosen Egypt as a touristic destination to enjoy its heritage beauty in Luxor and Aswan and at the seaside in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Although the Egypt-France year started with the “Independence and Egypt” dance show including dancers from Paris and the Cairo Opera Ballet, the most important event of the year will be the French President Emmanuel Macron’s first visit to Egypt, expected next week.

On Sunday French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire visited Egypt in preparation for Macron’s visit. Le Maire met President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi along with the economy ministers.

Le Maire confirmed during the meeting that France “values its close and outstanding relations with Egypt, which is a cornerstone for stability in the Middle East”, according to Presidency Spokesman Bassam Radi.

He underlined his country’s commitment to strengthening the ongoing partnership between the two countries and to further strengthen them across various levels.

Le Maire lauded the “wise decisions” that led to the remarkable positive development in Egypt’s economic indicators as well as the unprecedented achievements of mega national projects, including the New Administrative Capital, which is Egypt’s gateway to the future and one of the largest and most attractive urban development projects in the world.

According to Radi, President Al-Sisi underscored the importance Egypt accords to its relations with France. He looked forward to further advancing joint cooperation with France on various regional and international issues of mutual concern, so as to counter the ongoing challenges, primarily the current crises in the Middle East, whose repercussions extend to the Mediterranean region.

The meeting touched on a number of dossiers pertinent to bilateral relations and on ways to bolster the partnership between the two countries, particularly in the sectors of health, new and renewable energy, and transport and logistics. The meeting also tackled enhancing the partnership between France and the African continent under the umbrella of Egypt’s upcoming chairmanship of the African Union, by exploring opportunities for trilateral cooperation to serve developmental objectives in Africa.

Al-Sisi reiterated that economic and trade cooperation between Egypt and France as well as boosting the size and scope of French investments in the Egyptian market are of high priority to Egypt. This is in addition to Egypt’s promising and huge market which offers access for French exports into various markets in the region that share free trade agreements with Egypt, the investment incentives and advantages offered by the developing business environment, as well as the huge investment opportunities for the French business sector in national projects, including the Suez Canal Corridor and new cities currently being constructed across the country.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli also received Le Maire.

During the meeting, Le Maire said that Macron’s visit will witness the signing of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding in various domains as well as strengthening the channels of cooperation between both countries in heath, electricity, energy, aviation and metros, a cabinet press release noted.

Production of vehicles, especially those operated with electricity, is one field of cooperation that President Al-Sisi discussed with Le Maire. Le Maire promised, according to the cabinet press release, to discuss the matter with Peugeot automotive upon his return to Paris.

According to the French Embassy in Cairo’s website, France is a leading economic partner for Egypt. According to French customs, in 2017 France and Egypt posted an increase of 21.8 per cent in their bilateral trade which totalled 2.5 billion euros after experiencing its largest decrease in 10 years during 2016.

France ranked 11th among Egypt’s largest trade partners for the 2016/17 fiscal year, amounting to 2.9 per cent of Egypt’s overall trade, according to figures published by the Central Bank of Egypt.

King Tutankhamun

France’s economic presence in Egypt, made up of 160 subsidiaries of French companies employing more than 30,000 people, has also grown recently. French companies have strong positions in key sectors of the Egyptian economy, such as industry, agri-food, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, distribution, hydrocarbon exploitation, tourism and infrastructure.

Cairo Metro is a project that has significant French input. In addition to the participation of French companies, it has enjoyed French financial support of more than two billion euros in concessional financing since 1980.

French companies were recently awarded contracts worth around 2.2 billion euros related to the metro’s signalling, electro-mechanical equipment and civil engineering operations. 

The two countries have also upped their cooperation in the military field in recent years. Several major export contracts have been concluded. This includes Egypt purchasing four corvettes by DCNS in May 2014, 24 Rafale fighter aircraft by Dassault Aviation, a multi-mission frigate by DCNS and weapon systems by MBDA in February 2015. In October 2015, Egypt also purchased two Mistral-class force projection and command vessels built by DCNS and initially destined for Russia.

Macron’s visit is his first to Egypt since becoming president. He is scheduled to visit several archaeological sites in Luxor, Aswan and Cairo, among them the Citadel, the Pyramids and Karnak temples.

This is not the only event to be scheduled in the Egypt-France cultural year. Art events will be presented, among them an exhibition on Arabic typography and another on Egyptian caricature from 1970 to 2010, a week of French cuisine, as well as a contemporary dance show choreographed by Walid Aouni, to be performed first in France, then Egypt in March.

This is in addition to holding a series of seminars, theatre performances and hip hop musical concerts.

The king Tutankhamun exhibition tops these events as it is considered by a number of international publications, including Vogue, as one of the top 10 exhibitions in 2019.

The exhibition will take place at the Grande Hall of the Villette in Paris in March after an absence of 50 years. Tutankhamun’s treasured collection visited the capital city of France in 1967, drawing one million visitors. The March exhibition will put on show a collection of 166 objects from the collection that has captivated the French attention since its first tour there in late 1967. The artefacts relate the story of one of the most interesting and perplexing kings in ancient Egyptian history almost 3,300 years ago. It also shows the dazzling craftsmanship of ancient artisans that characterised the earlier Tutankhamun collection.

Guests will travel with the king on his journey to eternity where they will see the king’s good luck amulets, weapons meant to fight off demons, alabaster containers of oils that the ancient Egyptians believed enabled him to see and hear in the underworld, and figurines of gods meant to guide and protect him.

The most important artefacts on show include a 40cm gold coffin, the gold diadem from Tutankhamun’s mummy, a gold fan featuring an ostrich hunt, a small gold canopic coffin ornamented with faience, a silver trumpet used for religious ceremonies, a gilded wooden statuette depicting the king riding a black varnished leopard, four marble canopic jars, and a gilded wooden jackal-headed figurine with the god Duamutef on the base. There is a wooden travelling chest with gilded knobs inlaid with ebony and ivory, gold finger rings with images of the god Amun-Re on a cartouche-shaped bezel, a marble game board and tapestry-woven linen gloves.

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