After Abu Dhabi's deal for its own Louvre museum, neighboring emirate Dubai is also going for the French touch with plans to build its version of Lyon, complete with cafes, cinemas and schools, according to Lyon officials.
Due to be completed by 2012, the project is the brainchild of a Dubai entrepreneur who fell in love with Lyon, one of the France's three biggest cities, after traveling there as part of plans for a French-language university in Dubai in partnership with Lyon-2 university.
Buti Saeed Al Gandhi, who heads investment capital firm Emivest, is expected to sign a draft accord next week between the French city and Dubai.
He wants to extend the university project into a huge district named Lyon-Dubai City that will be graced with public squares, restaurants, outdoor cafes and museums, and play host to the same gastronomic, cultural, sporting and economic institutions found in the French urban hub.
"We're not going to just copy the buildings and make a type of Lyon decor, but reinstitute the city's atmosphere with boutiques and cultural places in the heart of the city, transport, a social mix, streets and lanes," said urban specialist Jean-Paul Lebas, who is working on the project.
"The city will be organized on European lines so that in a bistrot there you will find the same atmosphere as in a bistrot in Lyon," he added.
Thierry Valentin, deputy president of Lyon-2 University, said the new city, which will be about the size of the Latin Quarter in Paris, would be "a small city with the accent on the best of French culture, and particularly Lyon culture."
Besides housing, offices and hotels, Lyon-Dubai City will house a hotel school run by famed chef Paul Bocuse's institute, a French-language university offering masters in fashion, international law and economics, subsidiaries of Lyon's main museums, a cinematheque and a football training centre run by the Olympique Lyonnais.
The 300-400 hectare (741-988 acre) scheme, estimated at 500 million euros (740 million dollars), will be located either in an urban area near the Burj Dubai tower or in the desert near the emirate's planned second international airport.