No, Macron did not speak Arabic to the Saudi Crown Prince – it was our photographer

PARIS: At first glance of the video, one might have easily thought French President Emmanuel Macron greeted Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in Arabic on Thursday, using the term “taweel al ‘omor” — a local Saudi way of addressing royalty which translates to “long live.” The words were said as cameras recorded the crown prince walking into a hall, shortly before a wider shot showed him being embraced by the French president.

Given the way the video was shot, the warm reception the Saudi heir to the throne received, and the overtly successful visit he and his delegation of ministers have had, people were quick to assume that Macron had been secretly practising his Arabic — they were wrong, but the video still went viral nevertheless.

It was not President Macron, but award-winning French photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo who said the words loudly to grab the crown prince’s attention in order to “get a better shot,” he told Arab News.

“Although if people were realistic, they would pick up the difference in the voice and the tone, and would realize it’s not true,” confirmed Abd Rabbo.

“Fake news spreads faster when it relies on what is unusual, and weird” he added, saying that people’s own assumptions also play a role.

French photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo.

“I believe people were happy to see Macron greeting the crown prince in Arabic,” he added.

A high-level Saudi delegation traveled to France as part of the summit for New Global Financial Pact that looked into evolving methods of multilateral development, the financial system addressing 21st century challenges, new methods for green growth partnerships and mobilizing the private sector for the SDGs including sustainable development and SME financing.

For Abd Rabbo, addressing an Arab royal with taweel al ‘omor is the same as saying “monsieur le president,” “your excellency,” “your highness” and so on — different attention-grabbing phrases, that differ based on the context.

— علي الغفيلي (@alialgofaily) June 22, 2023

The video was so popular among Arabic language social media users that several regional newspapers and media outlets reported the incident as fact, when they should have double checked with the Elysee Palace or the conference to verify.

Abd Rabbo is a freelance photographer who has worked for several years with Arab News, and its French edition Arab News en Francais, as well as other regional prominent publications such as Asharq Al-Awsat.

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