RIYADH: The Embassy of France in Riyadh organized the “Festival de la gastronomie des pays francophones” (Gastronomy Festival of French-speaking Countries) on Saturday, Feb. 26 to mark the month of the Francophonie. Under the slogan of tasting, diversity and openness to others, it worked with the embassies of 10 other countries to present different specialties of the French-speaking world.
More than 1200 people flocked to the 13 gastronomy pavilions that had taken over the Cultural Palace of Riyadh. Visitors were able to taste boeuf bourguignon at the French stand, a tagine at the Moroccan stand, a Swiss raclette, Ivorian fah fah, Tunisian couscous, a Lebanese mezze and finally, enjoy Cameroonian plantains or Belgian waffles.
“We have seen for a few hours now all of Riyadh. All of Riyadh in its diversity, for Francophonie is synonym of diversity,” Ludovic Pouille, Ambassador of France in Riyadh, told Arab News en Français.
“This is an opportunity to unearth Francophone cultures, Francophone gastronomies in all their variety, in all their richness.”
During the Francophonie month, about 60 events have been organized by the French Embassy, the Alliance Française and their partners across several Saudi cities, such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Khobar and AlUla.
The French ambassador said: “The French-speaking world today brings together more than 300 million people, with this number expected to increase to 700 million by 2050. My message today to our Saudi friends is to learn the French language, to join our alliances, to sign up for classes and to become real French speakers because this language will help you.”
The French language is experiencing a strong craze in Saudi Arabia. It is considered by many to be the language of refinement and more and more young Saudis are interested in it.
Nawal Al-Kherejy, a young French-speaking Saudi woman who participated in the event, told Arab News en Français: “I am really passionate about French culture, language, music and cinema. So I decided to learn the French language in France so as to be able to practice and to learn this language in depth.”
The Festival offered people the opportunity not only to taste specialties from French-speaking countries but also to meet and converse with other French-speaking people living in Saudi Arabia.
“Frankly, I am very happy and very surprised, I would never have imagined such a beautiful country,” Samera, a French woman who is visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, told Arab News en Français.
“After Riyadh, I will visit Jeddah, I know that there are still many other cities to visit. I will certainly not have time to visit them all during 12 days, but I will come back, I really hope to come back because it makes me really happy,” she said, clearly very thrilled.
“La Francophonie is the synonym of diversity, of tolerance and openness to others. It is the dialogue of cultures that we celebrate,” said the French ambassador.
He said that these were all values that are ultimately very important in the Middle East and in the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia counts between 150,000 and 200,000 Francophones. He expected this figure to increase in the coming years.
“We know that within the context of the Saudi Vision 2030, this enthusiasm for diversity, for openness to others, for the attractiveness of the country, for tourists and for investors, the French language is essential,” he said.