Shaikh Mansour, Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi, and Dr Ali Bin Thamim, director-general of the Shaikh Zayed Book Award, with the winners during the ceremony at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Celebrating the best of Arab writings and creativity, the winners for the 12th edition of the Shaikh Zayed Book Award were honoured in Abu Dhabi on Monday, as this year’s winners included its first Emirati female author to receive the prize.

Split into eight different categories, each winner is given a cash prize of Dh750,000 along with a certificate and gold medal. Launched back in 2007, the Shaikh Zayed Book Award aims to promote Arab writers and their works, and has become among the Arab world’s main literary prizes, with submissions coming from across the entire region.

The awarding ceremony was attended by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, who was on hand to congratulate all winners.

Shaikh Mansour presents the Cultural Personality of the Year Award to Jack Lang, president of Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris.

“I feel so proud and happy to be among this year’s winners. Recieving the award in the Year of Zayed makes it more special for me and I’m so honoured. I dedicate this achievement to our government because they are the ones who have inspired and encouraged us to keep going and writing,” said Hessa Al Muhairi, the Emirati author who won in the category for Children’s Literature.

“I’m also the first Emirati woman to win the award and that makes me really proud as well. It sends a message that women can be good writers too and that we can achieve success and win awards as well,” she added.

Al Muhairi also spoke on the importance of having such an award that gives a platform for Arab writers to showcase their talents.

“Awards like this are so important because they encourage authors to write high quality books, which is something the Arab world needs, especially for the children. We need to encourage our youth to read more and we can do that by having good books available for them,” she said.

“At the moment the Arab world might be behind others when it comes to the literary industry, but we are starting to make positive steps forward with contributions like the Shaikh Zayed Book Award. There are so many good writers in the Arab world but a lot of people don’t know about them, and so this award creates a great opportunity for them to have their writings get recognised on a major platform,” she added.

Receiving the prize for the award’s Cultural Personality of the Year category was the Paris based Arab World Institute (AWI) for its work in promoting Arab-European cultural relations.

“Culture is the most important bridge between different countries and its citizens. The UAE and France are a good example of how strong cultural relations can greatly enhance the friendship between two countries,” said Jack Lang, AWI’s president and former French cultural minister.

“Our goal has always been to build bridges between the Arab world and Europe, and we have done this through so many different initiatives like exhibitions, forums, and translating several Arabic writings,” he added.

“The Arab world has a new generation of creative and inventive young people coming up, and it’s our duty to show this side of the Arab world and not just the bad things that are happening,” he said.

Ahmad Al Qarmalawi, an Egyptian writer who won in the Young Author category, praised the Shaikh Zayed Book Award for giving young Arab writers the chance to get involved.

“Book awards like this one are so important for young writers in the Arab world who don’t normally get the recognition they deserve, with attention usually going to well-known, established writers,” he said.

“The Arab world needs more awards like this because they create a real positive impact not just in terms of writing books but also from the cultural aspect. It’s important for other countries around the world to know more about us and our culture, and this comes through books,” he added.

List of winners

Literature Award: Khalil Sweileh, Syria, ‘Ikhtibar Al Nadam’ (Remorse Test)

Children’s Literature Award: Hessa Al Muhairi, UAE, ‘Al Dinoraf’ (The Dinoraf)

Young Author Award: Ahmad Al Qarmalawi, Egypt, ‘Amtar Sayfiyyah’ (Summer Rains)

Translation Award: Neji Elounelli, Tunisia, ‘Natharayya Astiteeqyya’ (Ästhetische Theorie), translated from the German work of philosopher Theodor W. Adorno

Literary and Art Criticism Award: Mohammad Mechbal, Morocco, ‘Fi Balaghat Al Hajjaj: nahwa balagha hajjajiyyah litahleel al khitab’ (The Rhetoric of Al Hajjaj: Towards a rhetoric inspired by Al Hajjaj in analysing discourse)

Arab Culture in Other Languages’ Award: Dag Nikolaus Hasse, Germany, “Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance”

Publishing and Technology Award: Dar Al Tanweer, Beirut, Tunisia, Cairo

Cultural Personality of Year Award: ‘L’Institut du Monde Arabe’