Since its opening on the 30th of November 1987, the Arab World Institute offers a unique opportunity to discover the richness of the Arab civilization, its knowledge, art and taste for aesthetics.
It was in the late 70s, when the French government realized how little the Arab world was represented in France, that sprung the idea of creating a cultural space entirely dedicated to its influence.
The Great Mosque of Paris created in 1926 already highlighted the close relationship between France and the Arab world countries, but a non-religious place honoring the Arab civilization itself still lacked.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was the first one to imagine a an Arab world museum to ease tension after the 1973 oil crisis. The Foundation for the Arab World Institute was created in 1980 in order to finally build a bridge between France and the Arab countries. It operated under the moral authority of a High Council gathering the representatives of all the states member of the Arab League. In 1981, the president François Mitterrand sped up the project and found a place for the future building: a part of the Jussieu university, unused until then. A great place near the Seine river banks.
The architecture of the Arab World Institute is unique, thus it is one of Paris most beautiful and prestigious buildings. The building is at the heart of the Latin Quarter and facing the Île-Saint-Louis, and from there you have one of the best perspectives on the French capital and the Notre Dame cathedral.
Designed by the group of architects Jean Nouvel and Architecture-Studio, the Arab World Institute smoothly mixes Oriental and Occidental architectures. The north facade is facing historic Paris and symbolizes the relation with the old city. The south facade is facing Jussieu and echoes strict Arab geometry. It is made of 240 mashrabiyas with apertures opening according to the amount of sunshine, playing with light both inside and outside as it is made of glass and iron.
The very elaborate architecture of the building received the Equerre d'argent prize in 1987 along with an Aga Khan Award. The mashrabiyas facade was also the setting for the Yves Saint Leaurent perfume "Elle" ad in 2007.
The permanent collections of the Arab World Institute are displayed on three levels:
• On the 7th level, visitors can admire the art pieces of the Arab world before the Hegira.
•tThe 5th level is dealing with the art and civilization of the Arab Islamic world.
•tThe 4th level is dealing with the expansion of Islam and not the Arab world itself, thus India, Iran and Turkey.
Thanks to temporary exhibitions happening every Autumn, visitors can discover the treasures of the Arab countries' heritage, whether it be contemporary art, photography, or even temporary exhibitions about current events.
Guided visits of the museum focus on various themes, and they trace the history of the Arabs, including before the advent of Islam in the 7th century AD. The 5 themes are: The Arabias, Sacred and Divine Figures, Arab Cities, Beauty, and Leisure Activities.
Enjoy a culturally rich visit, during which you will be delighted by the Arab World Institute guides' talent for narrating.