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Siem Reap & Celebration of Francophonie: France in all myriad forms

Designed for the general public, the Celebration of Francophonie aims to help as many people as possible to discover the many and varied aspects of our language and culture.

Célébration de la francophonie: French in all its forms

Siem Reap is in a frenzy of activity. This weekend, the town vibrated to the rhythm of the river, which was honoured to the great delight of its inhabitants. As these lines are being written, the Raid Amazones candidates are taking part in one competition after another, between the temples of Angkor and the floating villages of the Tonlé Sap. And in a month's time, three days of total madness will take over the city during the New Year festivities. Another major event is also about to take place, culminating in the weekend of 23-24 March: the Celebration of Francophonie.

French market in the Royal Gardens

A large market will be held over the two days, bringing together exhibitors with a wide range of activities, demonstrating the dynamism and eclecticism of a French community that is not short of resources or ideas. There will also be entertainment to complement the stalls, with shows, artistic performances and games for children.

But the big weekend market won't be the only highlight of this celebration: throughout the week, artists, craftspeople, restaurateurs and teachers will be getting in on the act, showcasing French culture and language. We interviewed the organisers and some of the participants, all of whom are committed to defending a facet of French culture.

Put together by the France-Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFC), the Paul Dubrule Hotel and Catering School, the Alliance française and the Siem Reap Tourism Club, this event will echo the International Day of La Francophonie, which will be celebrated on 20 March.

Celebrating the Francophonie: French in all its forms

Cambodia, candidate for the 2026 Francophonie Summit

''We used to organise the Soursdey France market every year before Christmas, but this year the timing was difficult to meet," explains Lionel Maitrepierre, a member of the local section of the CCIFC. On the other hand, we thought it would be a good idea to coincide the Journée de la francophonie with the organisation of a major French market. Meanwhile, Cambodia has applied to host the Francophonie Summit in 2026. Not only has the bid been submitted, but Cambodia's chances are real. With 88 Heads of State or Province attending, it would be the biggest international event ever organised in Cambodia. What's more, given that this summit is not necessarily intended to take place in the capital of the host country, we think it's entirely credible that Siem Reap would be in a position to host it. It would be a fantastic way of putting the spotlight on the town, its cultural activities (beyond the temples) as well as its leisure and gastronomic activities.

"Restoring the French language to its rightful place in Cambodia''

As major players in the French-speaking world, schools and the Alliance Française play a key role in disseminating the language and culture. Activities are organised by the main schools. The French School of Siem Reap, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is one of them. "We offer quality teaching, approved by the French Ministry of Education, from the very youngest section (2 years old) to high school, in a family environment that is keen to offer an individualised pathway for each child", says the French School, which, in addition to a bicycle tour, has chosen the cinema as a vehicle for cultural dissemination. The beautiful animated film La prophétie des grenouilles will be shown on 19 March. The EHT Paul Dubrule will be showing H.M. Norodom Sihanouk's film Ombre sur Angkor on 21 March.

Fluency in French opens up many professional horizons
Fluency in French opens up many professional horizons

Pierre Hourst, who co-founded the Saèk Thmey school in 2014, also joined in the celebration. "Our school runs a small boarding school for 36 girls and boys aged between 14 and 22, and welcomes more than 200 young people from the neighbourhood every day to teach them French and the basics of English conversation. In this way, we prepare them for a career in tourism and teaching. It is important to note that Saèk Thmey does not replace the Cambodian state school system, but complements and supports it.

As an NGO, the school is open to all, regardless of income, and its boarding school is open to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are fully supported by the association. Taking part in the Célébration de la francophonie was a natural way of raising awareness of the opportunities for learning French at our school and informing visitors about our capacity to welcome them by inviting them to an open day at our school. By helping to restore the French language to its rightful place in Cambodia, we are re-establishing a tradition and can create an appeal for French speakers to rediscover the desire to visit the land of smiles in the best possible conditions".

Artists open their doors

Photographer Damien Dufresne, an internationally acclaimed artist, is opening the doors of his studio to host the Côte à Côte & Face à Face exhibition, which opens on Wednesday 20 March. "My studio is first and foremost a place where the arts such as photography, painting, music and sculpture can come together. A place that is both lively and peaceful. Another cultural venue taking part in the event is Philippe Brousseau's Jayav Art studio, which will be open to the public on the afternoon of 22 March. "In our studio gallery, we create and manufacture sculptures from recycled paper that are both light and strong, making beautiful and original souvenirs that tourists can take home with them.

Damien Dufresne, whose MASA studio will host the exhibition Côte à Côte & Face à Face
Damien Dufresne, whose MASA studio will host the exhibition Côte à Côte & Face à Face

Culinary journeys

But what would French culture be without the art of good food? Restaurateurs and bistro owners have joined in the fun, creating special menus and events. Having lived and worked in Morocco for many years, Serge Haritonoff will be orchestrating an encounter between Oriental cuisine and South-East Asia on 19 March at his restaurant Chez Ali. Olivier, from Kh'mère Poulard, was inspired by the theme of "From Sète to Nice", and the description of the menu is mouth-watering: tielle à la sétoise, aïoli marseillais, calamari stuffed à la toulonnaise, gardiane de taureau à l'arlésienne and nougat glacé with zézettes from Sète will be on the menu, accompanied by a choice of Provençal wines by the glass or bottle. "The aim is to share a good meal and a good time with good people to the sound of cicadas and to work in my kitchen filled with the scents of Provence. Places are limited and the meal, which will take place on the evening of Friday 22 March, will be by reservation only (017 418 782 via Telegram or Messenger)."

Petanque tournament

Finally, what better place for a drink and a song than in a guinguette or bistro? A pétanque tournament, taking place successively at La Guinguette de Siem Reap and the Bicycle Bistrot, will bring together aficionados of an activity that is popular with both French and Khmer people. "La Francophonie holds an important place in Cambodia, represented by all those people who, coming from France, integrate into Cambodian culture while sharing their own," say the owners of La Guinguette, before adding:

"Our place, which reflects the diversity of our couple, is as much for Khmers as it is for French people. Our menu offers just as many Cambodian flavours as French dishes''.

Time for music

Music will not be forgotten. In addition to the dance party to be held on Saturday evening next to the French market, Thierry will be offering a barrel organ concert followed by karaoke in his establishment, Graines de Piaf. "French is a magnificent language that Khmers appreciate through the lyrics of the songs I perform," he confides. For him, the two cultures are intimately intertwined, thanks in particular to the French songs that the King-Father was so fond of. "There have also been a few covers of French songs by Cambodians, including Christophe's Aline, which is one of the most popular French songs here, if not THE most popular. And the youngsters love Belle, by ZAZ".

Karaoke and shopping, gastronomy and culture, education and games, this Celebration of the French-speaking world is aimed at all ages and all audiences, French and foreign, French-speaking and non-French-speaking, residents and tourists alike.

The French market will be held at the Royal Residence Garden.

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