It was an ebullient French Ambassador to Oman who announced the program for the French Week, 2019 in Muscat yesterday. With the backing of an energetic and enthusiastic event management team, led by Henri de Montmarin, and the support of French-based business entities, local partners, and prominent Omanis, and this year an amazing 43 sponsors, has surpassed all expectations in only its second edition.
Pointing to the establishment of a dedicated website www.frenchweekinoman.com/ which will carry details of all French Week events, and a local Radio station HiFM already promoting a contest in which some lucky couple will win a ‘money can’t buy’ prize of a trip to the city of romance, staying at the magnificent Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, the Champs Elleysee and “all the trimmings,” French Week 2019 is well and truly under way.
HE Renaud Salins was the driving force behind the inaugural French Week in 2018, and buoyed by the success of that event, which achieved between eight and ten thousand visitors, and had a purely French food focus, has further diversified this year to accommodate a much wider client and visitor base.
The business program has already commenced, with 45 representatives of 33 French companies led by MEDEF, the largest Employers Federation in France, meeting with the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, local government officials and commercial interests focused on the transport, logistics, energy, oil and gas and financial sectors, across a two-day program.
This focus will continue in a Utilities Day Workshop on Monday of next week as French partners are already heavily involved in the Sultanate in water and electricity production through VEOLIA, SUEZ and ENGIE. Planning, infrastructure and sharing of knowledge and good practices will be key elements in these bilateral talks to be held under the influential patronage of the Under-Secretary of the Ministry for Oil and Gas, HE Eng. Salim Nasser Al Aufi.
The following day features another workshop at the Hormuz Grand Muscat, where Pierre-Marc Renaudeau, Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique
Hospitality events are scheduled in the form of a traditional French Wine and Cheese evening at the Crown Plaza Convention Centre on Thursday, the Al Bandar Shangri-La Al Tanoor Restaurant hosts a French Brunch on Friday, and the Muscat Hills Resort an evening event, also on Friday.
Carrefour will, as they did last year, showcase French products, the Al Meera Supermarkets in Azaiba and Al Heel will do the same, and the Capital Stores Perfumeries in the Grand Mall will feature significantly discounted French and Omani perfumes. For those with a sweet tooth, the Chedi has a ‘macarons et pralines’ special throughout the week.
French based, world renowned global catering giants Sodexo/Socat are heavily involved again, with General Manager Geoff Murray saying, “We are proud of our French heritage, and contribution to Oman. We are delighted and honoured to once again be a partner in this exciting initiative, bringing the two countries closer together culturally and economically. We look forward to contributing to a week of ‘all things French’ to around 3000 pupils and students across the Sultanate.” Newrest, another France based caterer will provide catering options at the Lycee Francaise de Mascate, and Bank Muscat during the week.
Next Sunday will see the official launch, in the form of a Cocktail Evening at the French Embassy, where invited guests and dignitaries will be treated to French cuisine, and a special treat in the form of Antoine Barrau, or in his group persona ‘Igit,’ the 29 year-old gravel-voiced star of ‘The Voice,’ and an icon of what has been described as the new French music scene, or ‘nouvelle scene Francaise.’
The first day of Spring, the 21st of March, is traditionally ‘Gout de France,’ or Good France Day, and the Ambassador’s Residence will host a dining experience to remember for a select guest list. Traditionally the menu is not only of an extremely high quality, innovative and using the most recent culinary techniques, but the menu for the day must be ‘validated,’ by leading chef, Monaco born, Alain Ducasse, holder of 21 Michelin stars, the symbol of global culinary excellence. This particular event will be held in Muscat, on the 20th March for special reasons.
The piece de resistance for the week however, in many eyes, is sure to be ‘OSMOTHEQUE,’ which is representative of the collection in Paris of over three thousand perfumes. Between this collection, and the premium Omani brand, ‘Amouage,’ this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Oman’s glamorous set to experience, for real! All are welcome, neophytes, perfume enthusiasts and professionals can rediscover their feminine side as these two iconic institutions conduct a morning workshop at the Lycee Francaise de Mascate, and in the early evening at the Crown Plaza Qurum.
The entire week sets out to be formidable, and incredible, aptly, both worlds of French origin, and will surely be a memorable experience from whichever perspective it is viewed, industrial, commercial, financial, or just makes you feel good, because that’s what French does best, it makes you feel good.
PHOTOS BY LENA PETERSEN