On 1 October 2019, the United Arab Emirates inaugurated the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Abu Dhabi. Leading it is Ida Zilio Grandi, teacher of Arabic language and literature at the Ca’ Foscari University. For some time, the Emirates have shown a strong attention to Italian art and culture, as also shown by the great expectations for our country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

In Western imagination, the Emirates are seen first of all as economic leaders, but in recent years, the Gulf Countries and the Emirates have aimed a lot at building a cultural as well as an economic pole in the Arab-Islamic world. For example, recently they invested in museums such as the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and in the presence of several foreign universities such as New York University or the Sorbonne.

In the Emirates, Italy is highly regarded for art, industrial design, fashion and good food; the latter celebrated in the new edition of Gulfood, the international Food and Beverage industry fair held in Dubai last February. Our country is perceived as synonymous with aesthetic sensitivity and good taste, but the beauty behind the Italian literary tradition is still unknown.

Ida Zilio Grandi
Ida Zilio Grandi, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Abu Dhabi

In fact, universities of the Emirates lack courses of Italian language and literature and, as stated by Director Grandi in an interview for Ca’ Foscari in Venice, “it is therefore necessary to heal the void, first of all by starting and advertising the Italian courses organized by the Institute of Culture – but also by local universities – and immediately building a library with the support of Italian publishers. There is also a real possibility of opening soon an international Italian school, which combines the study of Italian with that of other languages and cultures “.

Among the projects of the Italian Cultural Institute of Abu Dhabi there is the idea of highlighting Italian literary and artistic production by focusing attention on some cities in particular, through training courses and workshops, in collaboration with local institutions. “In the long term, together with Emirati authorities, I would think of the founding of a consortium of Italian universities, as Ambassador al-Shamsi wished,” said Professor Grandi.

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An important project is certainly the partnership with the Ca’ Foscari University, which has a lot to offer internationally, especially for its skills in the conservation of cultural heritage, skills sought in the Emirates, and also in the field of environmental sciences, in which the Emirates themselves are at the forefront. Furthermore, the Emirates promote gender equality that is difficult to find in other countries in the region – see for example the recent approval of a legislation on female representation in public administration boards required at least at 50% – and it is among the objectives of the IIC to focus on the talent of women, Italian and other, in the various fields of cultural production.

Looking at the latest events organized by the IIC in Abu Dhabi, last week was dedicated to several webinars on the life and works of Dante Alighieri, while the screening of Federico Fellini’s “The White Sheik” is scheduled for next Saturday, in cooperation with Cinema Space and the Italian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.