Traditional Arab style meets high-tech here, in the hundreds of solar-activated shutters which cover the Institut’s southern façade. These lovely geometric apertures, that open and close according to the intensity of the light, were designed by celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel to echo the intricate wooden balconies of Moorish palaces.
Opened in 1987 with the aim of fostering exchange between Western and Arab cultures, the Institut houses a library, cultural center, exhibition spaces and the “Museum of Arab Museums.” This displays several hundred items, many on long-term loan from Syria and Tunisia, that trace the history and art of Arabic-Islamic civilization.
There are terracotta urns; slabs from ancient Carthage; frescoes from the Kairouan Mosque and stuccos from the palace of Sabra al-Mansouriya, both in Tunisia; a mesmerizing array of gold astrolabes; costumes and jewelry; ancient manuscripts donated by Yemen; and a magical collection of carpets. Temporary exhibitions showcase Arab life and culture, and have included paintings of Algeria by 19th-century French artists; Napoleon Bonaparte’s travels in Egypt; Venice and its relationship with the Arab world; and Arabian horses and their riders.
Address 1 Rue des Fossés-St-Bernard, Latin Quarter;
Getting There Métro: Jussieu, Cardinal Lemoine, Sully-Morland; bus: 24, 63, 67, 86, 87, 89.
Opening Times 10am–6pm Tue–Sun.